Lebanon's prime minister Rafic Hariri returned back home yesterday, after an 11-day trip which took him to Saudi Arabia and France, where he met twice P.Chirac. His station in Damascus since Sunday was given highlight here. On Sunday he briefed V.P. Khaddam of his talks in Paris, and on Monday he was received for four hours by P.Assad.
The marathon talks with P.Assad seen here as significant indicator, and according to Hariri's circles its a signal that his diplomatic moves do not contradict with the common strategy of both Syria and Lebanon. Mr Hariri denied the press reports on a strain in the Syrian French relations. He said" The Franco Syrian relations have never been better", He also denied the speculations of the local politicians here that the French involvement in the peace process would lead to the separation of the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks. Hariri said "Lebanon will never agree to a unilateral settlement with Israel and will never respond to any proposal that would further complicate the peace process". Mr Hariri also quoted denying there is any French clearcut initiative to revive the stalled M.E peace talks, but given the French historical links with the region, "it is only natural for France to make proposals that would push forward the peace making efforts".
Sources in Beirut said P.Assad expressed special appreciation to the French stand and that he is ready to back any European French move to push ahead the peace negotiations. The sources also said that Syria agrees that Europe in general and France in particular, is better placed than the USA to mediate between the Arabs and Israel. The Lebanese government today will discuss Hariri talks in Paris and Damascus, and the ongoing intensive consultations between Beirut and Damascus aim at tightening the coordination, and adopt solid joint stand toward the proposals and initiatives which would be placed over in the near future. Mr Hariri briefed P.Hrawi at Baabda on his talks immediately upon his return back.
Mr Hariri who is back home is now facing the turbulent issue of Ouzai-Maramel, that is on surface, but in depth it is the issue of the relations with the speaker. Hariri, who in recent weeks refused to involve himself in the ongoing squabbles in the political leadership, lashed out at Mr Berri's warning. Speaking at a reception held in Beirut yesterday, he said "The past, with all its bloodbaths, its painful memories, slogans and dates, is behind us. Let those who seek to remember learn from the experience, not preaching its recurrence. Any attempt to push the state into quicksand to distract it from the principal causes and the challenges facing it will be doomed to failure, as the government will push ahead in its drive to consecrate the civil peace in a manner that will not hurt the achievements of the recent years".
The observers raise the question whether Hariri external moves would enhance his internal position, or his influence is decreasing day after day as a result of the opposition to his policy. The opposition and the parliament vow to exercise more strict supervisory role than before, in bid to weaken Hariri monopoly of the power. The observers say Mr Hariri who now has narrower space to maneuver is trying to compensate by making a diplomacy abroad, the diplomacy should be enacted by the foreign minister. The question raised in Beirut is whether Hariri is back with more strength or more weaker, and say the external problems mix up with the internal one.
The speaker's sources say he will not anymore concedes in administering the supervisory role of the parliament, and that the troika has lead to series of mistakes on the state level, something reflected negatively on the interest of the Lebanese people. He is quoted to vow he will never accept again the past methods exercised by both P.Hrawi and Premier Hariri. The parliament general debate tomorrow will be a test of the relations between the government and the parliament. The debate will discuss issues such as the municipal elections, credits to the electricity administration, and also credits to the reparation of the roads network.
Some MPs would propose that the municipal elections to be held earlier on May instead of June, which is a summer season and a time for the official examinations. The debate will be a symbol of the future parliament role and its dealing with the government.
The eviction of about 150 people from the Ouzai Maramel is indefinitely on hold and the tension eased down for now. The government of Mr Hariri retreated temporarily and postponed the eviction and the demolishing of houses, obstructing a highway construction, before settling the compensations of the residents. The row between Elyssar and the residents will be top item on today's government meeting under P.Elias Hrawi. The interior minister Michel Murr headed the yesterday's meeting of the central security commission, asked the governor of Mount Lebanon to review the case and to ensure that both parties averted a showdown by reaching a solution.
Mr Murr quoted saying the security forces can only deal with the security aspect of the case, and he was clear enough to say the governor cannot ask the security forces a forceful eviction, as long there is no judicial decision on the evictions, and furthermore the government did not even take decision on that. He was also quoted saying the Elyssar agency should have taken all the administrative and financial arrangements in prior, including either paying fair compensations or to ensure alternative houses, as it was agreed upon earlier. The governor is now to submit his report to the commission on the average compensations and the gaps between one and another resident, with all other details, before the commission refer the case to the government for a final decision.
In the meantime, the residents staged yesterday sit ins before their houses, and joined by deputies of the Amal movement and Hizbullah, to avert any eviction by force. The deputies assured that they demand alternative houses and shops to the evicted residents, or ensure enough financial compensations to buy the alternatives, assuring they are with the fair solution and not against the Elyssar project.
On other hand, The main opposition figures will join together today at the residence of the president of the Labour Union Elias Abu Rizk. The meeting will be attended by Hussein Husseini, Selim Hoss,Omar Karami, Rashid Solh, Elie Firzli, Nassib Lahoud, Butros Harb, Najah Wakim, Zaher Khatib, Mohammed Y. Baydoun and others. They will discuss the various socio -economic issues, the government conduct, and would draw the role of the opposition in and out of the parliament, also what measures can be taken to correct the political and government situation.
The April's understanding monitoring committee discussed yesterday at its 9 hours meeting at Naqoura the complaints of both Lebanon and Israel. It was the shortest meeting out of the 10 past ones and ended with the issue of what has become familiar response to the claims of violations, urging all the parties to respect the terms of the understanding. The committee accepted as factual both claims but issued no condemnations. The reports in Beirut said the Lebanese and Israeli delegates have heated debate over the Israeli air raids and the bombing of a radio antenna near the village of Nahle in Bekaa. The Lebanese recalled that the April understanding did not include the media facilities, but the Israeli side argued that the radio belongs to the Hizbullah. This point took hours of heated debate and the Lebanese side recalled that the roadside bombs, the subject of the Israeli complaint, were planted against a military target.
The Israeli reconnaissance flights over south Lebanon and Beirut continue as before. The Israeli navy intercepted a Russian ship bound to Tyre and loaded with used cars, searched the ship and allowed it to continue to the port later.
The Israeli artillery fired at suspected resistance positions and hide outs close to the security zone, one shell fell near a UNIFIL truck carrying three Irish soldiers but no casualties reported. The UNIFIL complaint to the Israeli army.
The resistance pounded the Israeli post at Rashaf and said the post received direct hits. The resistance also claimed it attacked at dusk a convoy carrying an Israeli senior officer near the Mashaaroun outpost, the convoy was besieged and could not leave without the Israeli choppers' intervention. The SLA artillery fired at vineyards near the Hasbaya town causing panic among the people.
Hizbullah deputy Ammar Mussawi said yesterday Israel is not ready yet for the unilateral withdrawal decision and the only way out is its total unconditional withdrawal. He said the French efforts on the peace talks have no chances of success. The "Lebanon First" or other proposals by Israel are unrealistic and only aim to deflect from the principal point which is the elimination of occupation from our land.
More than three quarters of the Israelis say their army cannot defeat Hizbullah in south Lebanon, according to a poll published yesterday. Seventy-eight per cent of Israelis said no to the question: "Do you think the Israeli military with the methods it uses currently can defeat Hizbullah?" In comparison with a poll taken last month , before the collision of the two helicopters en the route to Lebanon killed 73 Israelis soldiers, the number of the Israelis who say that victory over the Hizbullah impossible increased by 13 per cent.
Some 76 per cent of Israelis said they would support the use of "more effective military methods" against Hizbullah, while 15 per cent disagreed and nine per cent had no opinion. Seventy-four per cent of the sample of 1.000 Israelis, said to be representative of the entire population, favoured a unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon if the "more effective methods" did not work. Another 20 per cent opposed a retreat in this case while six per cent said they had no opinion on the matter.
The helicopter crash was the worst in the Israeli military history and has prompted debate in Israel on a withdrawal from the occupied south lebanon. The poll was taken by Bar Ilan University in suburban Tel Aviv.-AFP
Cardinal Sfair is due to leave tomorrow to the Vatican to join the Synod on Asia, to discuss the final statement of the Synod on Lebanon before it is refered to his pontiff and which will be announced during his visit to Lebanon, also the Cardinal is to participate in the arrangements for the visit and fixing definitely its date.
The Cardinal received yesterday a committee of Bishops who represent the Lebanese emigrants. They discussed with him the ways to benefit from those living abroad. Their recommendations proposed identification cards for those Lebanese overseas, the amendment of Lauzanne treaty article 34, under which many Lebanese were registered as Turks when the area was under the Turkish control, cooperation among the government administrations which deal with emigrants, the safeguarding of the liquid and fixed assets in Lebanon held by the Lebanese living abroad, parliamentary seats for the Lebanese diaspora who hold the Lebanese nationality, and incentives for the Lebanese expatriates to invest their money and resources in Lebanon.
The north deputies Ahmad Habbous and Khaled Daher welcomed his pontiff visit to Lebanon.
The Papal Nuncio discussed with Allama Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah yesterday the visit of the Pope. Fadlallah office said in a statement the Papal Nuncio clarified that his pontiff remark'" blessing Israel", he said during a visit by Netanyahu earlier, was a courtesy and has no political significance.
Kataeb leader George Saadeh welcomed the pontiff's visit and said it should be given a national Lebanese aspect.
- Five suspected members of the Japanese red army have been taken into custody in Lebanon. The Japanese police have sent officers to Lebanon and were trying to confirm the identities of the five. The group was responsible of several actions including the Tel Aviv massacre in 1972. Tokyo NHK said early today.
- The Head of the PLO political department Farouk Kaddoumi is to visit Beirut and discuss with foreign minister Fares Boueiz the peace process.
- The Austrian state minister for foreign relations is due to arrive to Beirut Thursday for talks on the M.E and the Lebanese stand toward the peace process.
- Kesrouan deputy Rashaid el Khazen said the municipal election is a possibility and the economical situation is at a boiling point. El Khazen said that the A-2 highway that will cut through the middle of Jounieh, threatens to be another Berlin wall in the heart of the town. The highway, projected to cost more than $400mn, is expected to demolish some 240 buildings from Antelias to Tabarja. El Khazen repeated his counter-proposal of building a highway over the current highway between the dog river and Tabarja.
- The Swedish health and social affairs minister arrived to Beirut yesterday for three days visit to discuss the Swedish-Lebanese health cooperation.
- The French embassy counsellor Gilles Gauthier said after a meeting with Lebanon foreign ministry's S.G Zafer El Hassan his country will reconsider requirements for entry visas and the residence permits for the Lebanese applicants. He said officials from both foreign ministries will review shortly the current requirements in a meetings to be held in the next two months. He said the delay of issuing visa to the Lebanese applicants, which may take up to one month in some cases, was caused by the Schengen accord, under which a bearer of a visa to any of the agreement's seven signatories is automatically cleared to travel to the other six nations.
- The Muslim Shiite senior cleric Sheikh Mohammed Shamseddine warned of the Israeli attempted cultural invasion of Lebanon and destroy of the ethical values.
- Deputy Marwan Fares says the municipal election law was the main reason of the political squabbles over the troika. He questioned if Lebanon now turned to be a SOLIDERE, ELYSSAR or QADMOUS.
- North political figure Tufic Sultan affirmed that the speaker's remark over 6th Feb was next to an earlier remark by his deputy Elie Firzli who described Lebanon's government a "farm like", and after the deputy prime minister and interior minister Michel Murr threatened to go down to the street to fight a construction programme in Metn. He questioned if such remarks help the civil peace.
- 400 Lebanese scout planted 8800 plant at the outlet to Damascus symbolising the cooperation between the two countries.
- SUKLEEN, a company in charge of the cleanup of Beirut, boosted its workforce to more than 2000, added 300 trucks to the existing fleet of 100 donated by Saudi Arabia, and lined up more than 10,000 waste bins, also employs 500 staff. Almost all the staff are Lebanese while the labours are foreigners.
- Minister of the environment Akram Shehayeb and member of the Druze chieftain Walid Jumblat's parliament bloc said yesterday they are lobbying for a law which tax the foreigners buying the real estates, to finance the rehousing of the displaced. He said, after a meeting with the speaker, they are trying to get the law adopted by the government, if not, a bill will be presented to the parliament .
- The parliament finance and budget committee approved yesterday a $5mn loan from OPEC to build a public hospital in Kesrouan. The 70 bed hospital in Bawar will cost a total of $ 6.9 mn. The committee chairman Khalil Hrawi said they asked the health ministry to pay doctors per-patient basis not a monthly salary, because this will be an incentive for the doctors to carry out their duties at the government hospitals.
- The ministry of oil announced yesterday it will reduce the official price of diesel oil by L.L 400. The new price for 20 litres L.L 6400 is to be effective as of today. The price includes a station owner's fee of L.L300 and L.L 35.6 for the distribution company.
- The Lebanese taxi drivers united association demand a compensation for the changing prices of oil and the foreign unlicensed taxi drivers who compete the Lebanese in their living.
- The American University in Beirut announced yesterday that two scholarships offered have been offered by the British bank in Beirut, to the best Lebanese student to continue graduate study. The British bank will fund the two scholarships which will cover all the tuitions for two AUB students .
- The archaeologists have uncovered a 5000 year story of successive civilisations in the downtown Beirut. Dr Hareth Bustani, who advise the SOLIDERE says some 80,000 m2 had been uncovered since the excavations began in 1993. Layers of Canaanians, Phoenician, hellenistic, Byzantine, Roman, Mameluke, and Ottoman civilisation have been unearthed. The SOLIDERE which plans to turn the 1.8m2 central district to a futuristic city centre, financed 90 per cent of the $8mn cost of the excavation
Shabab Bushrieh is still in the leading of the Lebanese volleyball, with Ghazir second.
Lebanon minister of education, sport and youths Jean Obeid arrived yesterday to Cairo to attend the Arab ministers conference at the Arab league H.Q in Cairo. Mr Obeid will discuss the Arab 8th tournament and the pledges made to aid Lebanon to continue building the sport facilities.
A delegation including the ministers of youths and sport of Egypt, Syria and Jordan are due to arrive to Beirut as of 16th March to check Lebanon's preparations to host the 8th Arab tournament.
The Lebanese tennis players Ali Hamadeh and Shun Karam are to play today in Riyadh first of their matches in the Davis cup .
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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