The Lebanese foreign minister Fares Boueiz, in his 30 minutes speech yesterday, warned of the grave repercussions of an unorganized Israeli unilateral withdrawal, adding that such sudden withdrawal from the south could plunge the country into a serious turmoil, recalling the sectarian bloodbath that stemmed from the Israeli army's occupation in 1983. He said also that the talking about such withdrawal is similar to the "Lebanon First" proposal. He said that Lebanon insists on a complete pullback and the "elimination of all the products of the the occupation", a reference to the Israeli backed SLA led by Antoine Lahd". He said Israel should declare its readiness to pull back to the international borders and also declare it has no intention to keep a single inch of the occupied area.
Boueiz said Israel should set an internationally guaranteed withdrawal's timetable with fixed dates for the starting and the completion. He said Lebanon is concerned of the UN resolutions 242 and 338 and the 425, the first two focus namely on the Palestinian conflict, but include a reference to the right of the Palestinians to return to their native land, and the Lebanese concern of those two resolutions is due to the presence of some 350 thousand refugees on its soil. As to the 425 resolution, and if Israel is not willing to publicly endorse it, then it should at least declare its readiness to pull to the international borders and it has no intention of keeping any inch of the occupied area. He said he does not believe Israel would make such a step. He disclosed that in 1996, before the suspension of the peace talks, "we were on the verge of reaching an agreement", but after the right wing Likud party leader became the prime minister all the progress was frozen.
The minister said the Lebanese government will not move to dismantle the resistance before Israel ends its occupation of the south. He emphasised that the resistance actions are independent from the state and consequently we cannot dissolve it. Mr Boueiz described the Hebron deal as a retreat from the Oslo accord, and the Oslo accord is a retreat from the Madrid, and it is not in the interest of any Arab party to retreat, ridiculing Netanyahu, who so far does not want to resume the peace talks on the basis of Madrid, and recalled he was the spokesman of the Israeli delegation in Madrid.
The foreign minister will return back to Beirut Sunday, while the prime minister who is Paris too will come back Monday. The news analysing here said Mr Hariri is reported more relaxed this time to the talks he held with P.Chirac. He was told in Paris that the behind curtain diplomacy succeeded to narrow the gaps facing the peace talks' resumption and that something has been achieved unpublicly, such a progress would reflect positively on Mr Hariri position which has retreated relatively after Netanyahu assumed his post in Israel, and the chances of the peace drive declined.
The analysts says that Hariri succeeded to persuade P.Chirac not to fall in the Israeli trap, which was discussed unpublicly and which aimed a unilateral withdrawal by Israel, replacing it by a multi national force deployed in the evacuated areas under the French command, that plan was harmful to Syria, because it would have led to the separation of the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks, and to pull out the card of the south Lebanon while the Golan issue remains hang on.
P.Chirac responded to Hariri's request and furthermore he called on telephone P.Assad and had conversation with him on telephone. That move gave Mr hariri more credibility in mediating as liaison with the Europeans. Some news analysing furthermore said that the local domestic troika row was on surface of an internal roots, but in fact it was in depth a reflection of a bargain on an Israeli unilateral withdrawal, France was working it out and some quarters here regarded it as the pay off for the Friends of Lebanon's forum, The bargain was shelved during Hariri recent visit to Paris.
The visit of Mr Hariri to the Vatican will give him more weight, as he will try to convince the Pope to soften the attitude of the Synod message, something will give him additional boost in Beirut.
In the meantime, the south Lebanon remains under the spot lights in Paris,Washington, and in Beirut. The news reports in Beirut said Netanyahu asked Washington to support his claim to disarm the Hizbullah and the Lebanese army to take over the responsibility of the security in south, also asked that Syria to agree to the security arrangements which halt the operations against north Israel. Netanyahu reported to P.Clinton that his army is facing difficulties and that the resistance has an upper hand there as it inflicts more casualties in his army's ranks, adding that such situation caused him security and political problems at home.
The news reports here hilighted Netanyahu saying he is "still puzzled by the Syrian refusal to discuss an Israeli withdrawal from south in return for an end to the attacks on Israel by Hizbullah guerillas who operate with tacit Syrian approval". He said "I'm saying we want to withdraw from Lebanon, but I'm being told by the Syrian press don't withdraw from Lebanon. Now Syria ostensibly seeks our withdrawal but in practice impedes it".
In Beirut, the secretary general of Hizbullah Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his party refused to commit not to attack Israel if it withdraws from the south. He said " that's a card we prefer to hang on to. Let them withdraw and we'll see to that. In any case, the resistance is not a government that can give security guarantees. That's up to the Lebanese state. It's not the Hizbullah fighters who will replace them but it is the Lebanese army. We are not worried about our political future as we are not a military formation but a political party leading a popular resistance. The Israelis are making statements over Iranian arms shipments because they want to justify their losses. Our armament have not changed but we are learning more to master the use of the charges that explode on the roads as the Israeli patrols drive by". He also said that the Hizbullah, with eight deputies in the parliament, will play more prominent role if it halts the military actions.
The Hizbullah in a statement issued Friday blasted the USA describing it as hostile to the Lebanese people. The statement recalled the remark by P.Clinton on Thursday saying "the USA gives priority to northern Israel's security over the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from south Lebanon". The Hizbullah statement added that the USA is still giving baseless excuses for the Israeli assaults on Lebanon. It also said that the US president was the only world leader who attempted in a provocative manner to acquit the zionist killers from the massacres they perpetrated during last April's blitz, he also provocatively justifies the Israeli occupation and ignore the Arab rights.
The news from Israel said the Israeli army soldiers in south Lebanon will be offered clothes dryers, and more hot water for bathing, also the army will send more armoured troop carriers to protect them from the road side bombs and ambushes, all are bid to improve the daily life and to reduce the risks and discomforts. The decision was taken amid a visit by the prime minister Netanyahu to the border strip on Tuesday. The Israeli army has boosted the efforts to improve the soldiers morales following the death of the 73 soldiers. Some 400 soldier were killed in connection with the occupied zone established in 1985 to prevent the cross border attacks.
The deputy leader of the Kataeb party Karim Pakradouni said yesterday he does not exclude Israeli commando operations against Hizbullah. He said such operations, which should be demonstrative, surprising and thrilling, are designed to deflect the public opinion and to improve the morale and respect of the Israeli army, after the return of Netanyahu from Washington. The operations would perhaps include the kidnaping or the assassination of leaders in Hizbullah in an effort to change the rules of the game. Other news in Beirut quoted the monitoring committee saying Israel has offered to halt its air raids against Lebanon in case the Hizbullah pledges to halt its roadside bombs against its patrols in south.
Cardinal Sfair, quoted by a Chuf delegation visited him Thursday, supports the visit of the Pope to Lebanon which he regard it of a great meaning , because it gives hope in the future. The Cardinal has been also quoted saying that neither a Christian state nor a Muslim state can be established here and Lebanon's role is a message. He was quoted saying too that some groups oppose the visit and say it will consecrate the situation in Lebanon, but he recalled that the Pope had visited Poland in the past, with its situation worst than that of Lebanon, and the result of the visit to Poland was the shifting from the then communism not consecrating the situation which was prevailing then.
The National Gathering at a meeting held in Paris on Thursday and attended by Amin Gemayel, Gen.Michel Aoun, Doury Chamoun and Fouad Naffaa, expressed their reservation on the visit, saying though they welcome the visit but it takes place in the absence of the sovereignty, independence, and the exile of the Lebanese leaders from their native homeland. The conferees cautioned that the visit would be used to consecrate the de facto situation in Lebanon which should be eliminated. They reviewed the general situation in Lebanon and among the overseas emigration. The gathering expressed its gratitude to the international organisations and institutions which contributed, with the media, to defend the human rights in Lebanon, and embarrassed the government in Beirut which accelerated the release of those arrested on the new year and X-Mas eve. On the situation in south Lebanon, the gathering see two approaches. The first is the implementation of the 425 and 426 resolutions and consider the security arrangements in south as an international responsibility, from which the present peace keepers (UNIFIL) has emerged, or the 5 states monitoring committee which emerged from the April's understanding can take the role of accelerating the implementation of the two above resolutions and to propose the security arrangements which satisfy all the parties concerned. The second is to resume the peace negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, which started at Madrid and suspended now, because regenerating the Lebanese Israeli talks should go the same way with the efforts to regenerate the israeli Syrian peace talks, in order to safeguard the Lebanese interest, and to avoid the possibility that the outcome of the diplomatic efforts be realized on the account of Lebanon. The Gathering also discussed the living situation which becomes intolerable, recalling a press report that said more than one Million Lebanese are living under the poverty line. They said the government only remedy was to declare a state of emergency, deter the labour movement, silence the outcries of the hungry and strifed and considered that the solution is resolved. The Gathering cautioned the government of its socio economic policy and the marginalisation of the vital essential classes.
The news analysing says that the Pope's visit to Lebanon ignited a debate and predicted it has already caused a political strain before it starts. The analysts recalls the statements issued by the opposition groups in or out of Lebanon. It says also that the opposition think over the measures it can take to express its stands, including the formation of a delegation which would even goes to the Vatican to explain their view, or to dispatch a public memo to the Pope to explain reasons of their refusal.
The Hizbullah in a statement issued Friday, denounced the assault in Egypt against a Coptic church which left nine Coptic Christians dead on Wednesday.
The statement said the assault aimed to tarnish the tolerant Islamic culture and threatened to trigger sectarian strife in Egypt. It said the crime is primarily an offense against the spirit of Islam, whose system of government has been able to set up a secure society, in which all the citizens of many religious practiced religions rites freely and enjoyed a common living. It said the crime may be used to cover up the zionist crimes against the Arabs and the Muslims. It said Israel is seeking to set up sectarian and racial entities in the M.E in order to gain prominence in the region.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri is to visit Canada 10-14 April upon an earlier invitation extended to him and scheduled to meet senior officials and the Lebanese community in Canada. He will ask support to Lebanon's stand on the peace negotiations and to encourage investments in Lebanon. The Canadians will raise the point of maintaining the democracy in Lebanon. A SOLIDERE delegation will visit same time Montreal and meet economy experts and the Montreal International council.
The Hizbullah praised the Saudi authorities yesterday for their "refusing to accept the US accusations against Hizbullah in the deadly bombing of the US facility in Khobar last July that killed 19 US soldiers. The US press reports had accused a Hizbullah branch in S.A .of carrying the attack with the support of the Lebanese counterpart. "The Saudis have proved their sense of justice and we hope to develop our relations with them" Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday, adding there is no faction of the Hizbullah in Saudi Arabia , Bahrain or the Palestinian territory.
The Hizbullah said to have dismantled an Israeli spy network in the East of Lebanon. At least 5 persons including some Hizbullah militants were arrested by the Hizbullah security in the last two weeks in the Baalbeck and Hermel region. Some of the spies admitted during the ongoing investigations they went to Tel Aviv. The Hizbullah intends to hand over the suspects to Syria.
The public works minister Ali Harajli said yesterday his ministry's productivity in 1996 is much better saying it spent L.L230bn on road related public roads, but he blamed the overloaded trucks for partially responsible of the road accidents.
The ministry of health cautioned the public of not treating an outbreak of flu, especially in north Lebanon, where four children died, because it would lead to bacterial infections.
The Lebanese industrialists association hailed the successful shopping festival describe it as huge success that will encourage a repeat festival
Former Prime minister Omar Karami criticised the government spending on the hazardous projects saying there are frauds. He praised the indictment by the judiciary on the assassination of his brother Rashid Karami, saying the case should be placed at a national level and above all political or confessional considerations. He welcomed the visit of the Pope wishing he will announce the clear and public stands that support the right and justice, also supports the jerusalem holy city and the Palestinian case.
Cardinal Sfair received the environment minister Akram Shehayeb, who emphasised that his ministry is determined that all the German origin waste containers be taken out of Lebanon all at one time. Mr Shehayeb said he reviewed with the Cardinal the case of the displaced and they agreed that the shortage of money is the major problem. Among the other visitors the Papal Nuncio who repeated that the Pope visit stems from the Pope endeavor to Lebanon which is for all the Lebanese.
The information minister Bassem Sabbaa reiterated that the violation of the law by the private radio stations which continue to broadcast political programmes and news bulletins is not tolerable anymore. He said his ministry will monitor the broadcasts in the coming days before taking legal actions. The manager of the voice of Lebanon (Kataeb radio) Simon Khazen said his station cannot and should not ignore news of the south and the Israeli aggressions, because those are national news and any warning by the minister on that is unacceptable.
The opposition figure Dr Albert Mukheiber said yesterday the call by P.Clinton for the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from south, and the take over of the Lebanese army of the security there, also his call for restarting the peace talks between Syria and Israel with the support of the US administration, have paved the way for Lebanon and Syria to reach a comprehensive just peace with Israel, and allow the M.E to go ahead in building its economy and security. He said that the hope of the people of the region is to respond with that call and not to waste such an opportunity.
The Muslim clerics in their Friday sermon prayers welcomed the visit of the Pope and hoped it will help enhancing the common living, the one citizenship, and the real human rights. Sheikh Moahmmed Mehdi Shamsedine praised the wisdom of the Pope for making his visit only to Lebanon, and considered his visit to the Christians and Muslims of Lebanon is a visit to the entire region. The Mufti Abdel Amir Kabalan hoped it will consolidate the unity of the Lebanese on the basis of the christian and Islamic values.
The Palestinian self security team now investigating the bomb explosion at Ain Helwe continues its investigations, and launched series of arrests of the persons suspected to have connection with the man who carried the bomb near an UNRWA school. The preliminary investigations proved that the man has connections with an external party.
The former minister Roger Deeb ruled out yesterday the suggestion that Samir Geagea had planned the 1991 attempted assassination of the then defense minister Michel Murr. Deeb also rejected the allegations that Geagea wanted to prevent the army to deploy in the Christian areas, added that the deployment was up to a ministerial committee then not to Murr personally, also said the relations between Geagea and Murr remained normal after the attempt, and they had similar views on rebuilding the state at the time. The Judicial Council adjourned until Wednesday the hearing of more defense witnesses including Michel Murr personally and his son Elias. The defense witnesses' statements yesterday at the court session were generally in favor of Mr Geagea.
The minister of education announced that his ministry continue to review the budgets of the private schools before taking a decision on the increase of school tuitions. The parents union says the tuition fees for 1996 was increased by up to 500 per cent and the parents are paying 8 times more than they should.
The minister of electricity and hydraulic resources Elie Hubeika, who checked yesterday the underground river flowing beneath Antelias, said the nation's debate on the water resources is being seriously addressed for the first time, because the rehabilitation of the electricity network had taken priority previously. He said "now as the electricity problem is almost settled its time to turn interest to the water."
The agriculture ministry revised the agriculture imports-exports calendar for the second time in one week, this time allowing tomato imports from February 17 to 28 with the ceiling two tons as of 1st March. The ministry also asked the livestock importers to present the necessary paperwork within the next ten days in order to receive approval of importation.
Lebanese workers at the new electricity plant at Zahrani carried by the Italian firm Ansaldo are on strike because of the layoffs and because of "treating workers like thieves and gangsters", the workers statement said.
The statement issued and signed by some 27 African and Caribbean soccer players in Lebanon, complaining of racial discrimination in Lebanon, and passed to the UEFA, is still a row in the sport community in Lebanon. Around 100 foreign footballer are playing for various Lebanese clubs at present. The secretary general of the Lebanese Soccer Federation Raihif Alameh said a special inquiry committee has been formed.
The Safa club has suspended its three African players and send them home back to Liberia . The Nejmeh president Omar Ghandour said, after a meeting with Sierra Leone player Mohammed Lawson, the player apologied for signing the complaint, he was astonished of the content of the complaint and he is proud to play for the Nejmeh. David Nakid, who was among those edited the complaint, said he hates to cause any embarrassment to the Lebanese soccer, blamed the people for causing a strife between him and Al Ansar, regretting that this was the only alternative course to take because a number of clubs did not respect the clauses of the contracts signed. The secretary of the the soccer federation said stiff penalties will be imposed if the inquiry proved that the complaint is false.
Lebanon basketball championship marked yesterday 3 games in the second phase. The Hikmeh scored the Kahraba with 100-70, Abnaa Neptoune scored the Mont La Salle with 81-71, and Tadamoun-Zouk scored the Ihyaaa riyada- with 99-71.
The Lebanese volleyball union at a press conference held yesterday announced the schedule of the games for the 9th Asian clubs cup which will start on 12th May under the auspices of P.Elias Hrawi.
Lebanon soccer cup -the 21st round-
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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