News from Beirut February 17  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-France, Hariri talks

French P.Jacques Chirac received Yesterday for the second time in a week Lebanon's prime minister Rafic Hariri, who extended his visit to Paris to have another round of talks with P.Chirac, this time with the French defense minister too Charles Million, who had just arrived from a a visit to Israel.

Hariri-Chirac-Million meeting was held yesterday at the Elysee palace, before Hariri flew late evening to Damascus to meet V.P Khaddam, and possible to be received today by P.Assad. P.Chirac said to have told Hariri he will raise the issue of south Lebanon with US secretary of state Madelaine Albright, during her visit to Paris as part of her European and Asian tour, the first since she assumed the office.

The two meetings in Paris raised predictions of a new French initiative. P.Chirac who received Mr Hariri on Tuesday tried  to allay Syrian fears , and told P.Assad his country is not attempting to break the close cooperation between Syria and Lebanon, and that it opposes an Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the south, which would put Damascus on a weaker bargaining position with Israel regarding the Golan heights. The recent French diplomatic moves raised the speculations that P.Chirac is trying a larger role in the M.E region. The French defense minister visit to Israel was a kind of warming the icy relations between France and Israel. Both France and Israel are moving to capitalise on the momentum gained the signing of the Hebron deal, and observers think the deal as paving the way for Netanyahu to return to the land for peace formula, exercised by the former Labour Party.

The French defense minister has suggested in Israel a multi national force, including France, to patrol the border and that such a force would meet the Israeli demand for security guarantees , following an Israeli troop withdrawals part of a comprehensive settlement. So far Israel and Syria did not give official comment on the French proposal. Hariri wanted to reassure Damascus that Beirut continue to commit to maintain its close coordination with Syria on the peace process, also to counter critics in Lebanon saying he went to France seeking security arrangements for the south, something would dissociate Lebanon from Syria.

At tomorrow's session of  the Lebanese cabinet, it is expected that the cabinet reassure its commitment to an indivisible Lebanese Syrian position, and that any peace agreement must be comprehensive and include the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from both the south and the Golan heights. Some news analysts in Beirut said earlier that the French diplomacy aimed at deploying French and other troops in the border area evacuated by Israel and its political impacts was the deep root reason of the local conflicts among the top officials. Sources in Beirut said France, in fresh efforts with Washington, exerted the efforts to restrict the situation in south, and halt Netanyahu from making a new military adventure in Lebanon, to walk out of the impasse he is facing under the repeated strikes of the resistance.

Lebanon's foreign minister, who arrived back yesterday from a week long visit to France, denied the Israeli press leaks over a French role in case Israel carried a unilateral withdrawal. He said " He received assurances in Paris which is based on not adopting any proposal that is not agreed by Lebanon. He said what was circulated over deploying French forces or talking on a mediation by France between Lebanon and Israel, all that is annoying France and not satisfying. He added that it is obvious that the French policy is wise enough and not arrogant policy, as it understands the reality in the region, and that  France does not tend to adopt adventurous policies that some Israeli media try to involve it in.

Boueiz denied he has received any information on the proposals by Netanyahu over the peace process which were handed to P.Clinton, adding that there should not be judgments on merely press reports. He put emphasis that any Israeli proposals should be based on Madrid conference principles, and if not it will be regarded booby trapped or media proposals.

Boueiz refused to comment on the Hariri-Chirac meeting saying it is up to the Mr Hariri to make the comment.

In the meantime, the last April's ceasefire monitoring group is due to convene today at 11.00 a.m at Naqoura and see to the two complaints on hand, one by Israel and another by Lebanon. The Lebanese complaint, handed on Wednesday, complaint of the Israeli air raids at Nahle in Baalbeck and Loussi in south Lebanon. The Lebanese delegation will focus on the violation of the April understanding, through targeting the civilians and the danger of air bombing deep into Lebanon, something aims to cause regional not local tension. The Israeli side complaint is against roadside bomb planed on road of Beit Lif village, which according to Israel is inside an inhabited location. The Lebanese side will respond saying the April understanding allowed the resistance to carry attacks against the Israeli army which occupied part of Lebanon's territory in south. The panel is not expected to blame either side for the frequent violations and it is likely to appeal for strict implementation of the truce. South deputy Ayoub Hmayed said yesterday the performance of the monitoring committee has been aborted many times by the Israeli attacks against the civilians. He wanted the committee to be decisive not only an inquiry committee.

Meanwhile, the Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over the weekend along the frontline area, over Baalbeck north Bekaa where it came under anti aircraft artillery. The Israeli artillery combed the outskirts of the frontline villages damaging a house in Kfarruman village. The Israeli army held civil defense exercises yesterday near the northern city of Haifa, to prepare for any Katyusha rocket firing from south Lebanon. The Israeli commander of the civil defense Gen. Schmuel Arad said "we have to be prepared for any eventuality, however Israel had no proof that the Hizbullah guerillas have rockets capable to reach Haifa."  Haifa is located 25 Kms of the Lebanese borders.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbullah, speaking at a rally in the week long resistance week, said "our task is to make deadlocks and impasses to the Israeli enemy, not to try to find solutions for it. He said the US stand is always backing and adopting Israel and its superiority, to the extent that P.Clinton justified the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon under the pretext of the Israeli security. He said he observed lately a French diplomacy variable stands, from one side there were declarations by the French ambassador in Israel, contradict with the French declarations given in Beirut.

He questioned if  there are certain formula or project which under preparation behind the curtain.. He also said he observed that the Israelis are attempting to impose new rules and provisions in the April's understanding, for that, he was affirmative in saying "the resistance shall not under any circumstances accept any restricts on its movement, whatever that restrict is and whatever the circumstances are. " Nasrallah also observed that some declarations by the Lebanese state officials, cautions of the unilateral unorganized and timetable set withdrawal by Israel, are cautious of a strife in the occupied zone, same as in the past situations, but, Nasrallah said, the situation now is different as the country enjoys peace and stability and the security is restored to all visitors and citizens more than even in Washington or New York itself, in addition all the nation is united behind the resistance, something eliminates any fear of this nature. He said the state authority is responsible of protecting the people in the occupied border strip and the Hizbullah is not introducing itself as an internal security or police in that strip.

According to a French magazine (Le Point) France asked the Hizbullah to help it in trying to avoid the attacks by the Algerian Muslim militants. The Hizbullah S.G Nasrallah quoted telling a French envoy that "we had messages passed to the Algerian armed Islamic group asking it not to attack French interests". The French foreign ministry said it has no information on the report. Hizbullah officials in Beirut declined to give any comment.

Lebanon-Localities, The Elyssar-Ouzai and The Politics

The eviction of some 150 residents at Ouzai-Maramel area in the southern suburbs of Beirut turns to be leading story today in Beirut. The speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri, speaking to the visitors from Ouzai yesterday, said "no force in the world, no matter how strong, will make us tolerate an injustice done to our people. The six of February is not too long ago and everyone must learn from the past. God willing they will learn that one must not create a split between the people and the security forces nor between the shiite AMAL movement and the Hizbullah. if they (government) want to evict the people out of the Elyssar development area, they should be given alternative houses in the same area or else people should be compensated in such a way as to enable them to arrange alternative homes. "

He continues " We are for Elyassar or any other institution that aims to improve the living conditions, but the agreement which has been concluded and cannot be changed consists of giving any household evicted from the area an adequate compensation. Let no one try and attempt to play around with a discord between Amal and Hizbullah at all. When the issue concerns the Israeli enemy or any other social plight, I at once become a member and the chairman of  Hizbullah and Amal". Mr Berri remarks were given front page headlines today. the editorials said the Ouzai could turn into a major crisis or civil turmoil, adding its a challenge by the speaker in the face of the prime minister, indicating that Mr Berri would possibly lead a popular upheaval, in alliance with the Hizbullah and the spearhead could be the Ouzai case.

The 6th Feb was the date when the Lebanese army was forced out of Beirut during the term of Amin Gemayel by an alliance of the Muslims and left wing militias. The eviction was scheduled for today including some 150 residents, and as part of a redevelopment project for the southern suburbs of Beirut under the government agency Elyssar. The today's eviction was necessary to complete a section of a highway from the city centre to Khalde highway. The situation on the spot today was that the deputies of Amal and Hizbullah are present at Ouzai to lead a public rejection to the evictions, while the security men have either to go ahead by force or to retreat.

An Elyssar source predicted his agency would seek a compromise. The new remarks by Mr Berri, added to the earlier one against P.Hrawi, alienate him now from both partners in the Lebanese troika which he said has died.

The interior minister Michel Murr has discussed the issue with Syrian V.P Khaddam yesterday in Damascus. Murr also summoned the central security council to meet today. Some security units were stationed in Ouzai yesterday.

Another Shiite authority, Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamsedine quoted saying before the Ouzai Maramel delegation" We understand the position and reason for the protest by the Ouzai residents, and call on the government to express understanding to avoid a severe social problem that could lead to unknown consequences. The Elyssar project was conceived in 1995 to address  the destitution of the southern suburbs, an area that has been dubbed '  the belt of misery'. The Elyssar scheme, in an area of aprox 14.4 Kms2, aims to redevelop and provide low cost housing for an est 8000 displaced. The project faced considerable logistical difficulties, legal property problems, and fears by the residents over the livelihoods.

Lebanon-Pope Visit

The state minister Ghazi Seifeddine, of the pro Syrian Baath party, said yesterday the visit of the Pope to Lebanon is regarded, by the public and officials, as a great moral support to Lebanon on all levels, including the drive of security, stability and the reconstruction, also vis a vis the peace process.

Lebanon foreign minister said yesterday the visit is extremely important and historical, as it expresses his pontiff concern of  Lebanon and the value of Lebanon. He also said It symbolizes the common living in the world between the different communities and cultures, and it is coming in a time Lebanon is still facing crisis, hoping the organisers of the visit to be on adequate level and not to deal with it in a surface manners, as there are symbols which should be highlighted in the visit.

Ex P.Amin Gemayel said the visit is something historical but cautioned it will be used for local domestic political objectives purposes, and be used in the media in favor of the de -facto situation and its consecration, something he rejects. He said he welcomes the visit and wish all the leaders to be present to welcome his pontiff, it could be also a start of a root change of the situation in Lebanon, but exclude such change in a foreseen future.

Gen. Michel Aoun said the Lebanese opposition welcome the visit but as a Papal visit not else. He said the situation in Lebanon is complicated and hopes the visit will not be given interpretations and used in favour of the de facto. He said the voice of the opposition abroad is stronger than that of the government, recalling Mr Hariri position in Lebanon is not good and for that he makes too much tours and visits to outside Lebanon.

Mr Raymond Edde wished the Pope could change his mind, clarified that it is not acceptable the Pope to visit a country occupied by Israel which does not respect the UN resolutions since 20 years, and in the presence of the 35 thousand Syrian army. He added if the Pope see to visit Lebanon his National bloc party will not boycott it nor it to boycott the reception of his pontiff.

The analysts in Beirut said the final statement of the Synod on Lebanon may bring out an exit to eliminate the reservations on the visit, but Cardinal Sfair is quoted saying there will be no change of the statement and his pontiff is coming to translate it into reality.

News In Brief

The Egyptian P.Husni Mubarak quoted saying by the Lebanese press editors association's head Melhem Karam that Lebanon is on the verge of coming bright days, and that its economical and security drive is on the way to recovery and completion. He called the Lebanese to solve their own problems through the dialogue.

The Kfarnabrakh village's displaced received yesterday their agriculture land property from the residents. Chuf deputy Nabil Bustani said no national conciliation is real unless all the citizens return back their homes and land, and the government should ensure financing to accelerate the repatriation process.

The Lebanese bankers association said yesterday they have no knowledge of a government scheme, announced during the budget debate, to subsidise the productive sectors of the economy. The association's spokesman said the banks have not been consulted on the plan or its implementation.

Beirut horse racing hippodrome marked yesterday a special race in the occasion of the shopping festival. Thousands of enthusiastic spectators attended the race. The course which was completely destroyed during the war is now undergoing a large restoration programme by the 18 man committee in charge.

The agriculture ministry is planning to support the grape owners by avoiding overproduction same as last year crop.

The Druze minister of the emigrants Talal Arsalan said yesterday the issue of the community Sheikh Akel (religious head) is to be solved within the Druze house and to keep it out of the media.

North deputy Talal Merebi said the government's current preparations for the mayoral and municipal elections is not looking promising due to the lack of seriousness and precision.

Lebanon finance minister Fouad Sanioura headed yesterday to Singapore, on the first visit by a Lebanese key official, to the key far eastern financial centre.

Minister of education Jean Obeid headed to Egypt yesterday to attend the conference of the Arab education ministers.

The National vaccination campaign to eradicate polio started yesterday in the various Lebanese districts.

The Minister of Health Suleiman Franjieh is to discuss today a $36mn loan to the health sector with a delegation from the world bank.

The head of the information ministry television satellite broadcasting censorship said his team is doing work perfectly since first Feb.

South deputy Bahiya Hariri and Shiite senior religious cleric Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamsedine cabled yesterday the Egyptian Copts Anba Shenouda to denounce the crime committed there against a Coptic church.

The Chairman of the national flagger MEA Khaled Salam said yesterday that an extra general meeting had approved a $47.5 mn capital increase as part of a $125mn financing package from the central bank. He pledged that the MEA employees will not face lay offs during the restructuring of the company. He said no Lebanese employee of the MEA will be laid off . The MEA employs total of 4500 and its second employer in Lebanon after the state.


Wartan of the Homentmen is now the leading goal scorer in Lebanon after striking two out of four goals by his team in its match yesterday against Tadamoun-Sour on Saturday afternoon.The first half ended with a score of 2-0 in favour of the Homentmen.

The Ansar and Safa equalled with no goals in their match in Tripoli.

The Homenmen smashed the Racing team with 4-0 goals.

Basketball cup: The Riyadi-Beirut hardly scored the Wardieh with 91-84.

Anipal -Zahle marks first victory against Beit Meri 68-67. The Antranik won against Ghobeiri with 94-79.

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