News from Beirut February 20 1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Red Army

A spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry affirmed yesterday his government has formally requested the Lebanese government to hand it over the five Japanese Red Army suspects, if they proved to be members of the group. The Lebanese foreign ministry denied it had received until yesterday's noon any request to extradite the suspects. The embassy of Japan in Beirut already begun the preparations to airlift them back to Tokyo. The manager of the Japan airlines stationed in Cairo arrived to Beirut on Tuesday and met the ambassador of Japan in Lebanon perhaps to arrange the transport of the suspects, including a woman. The Japanese airliner does not fly to Beirut but it is not clear what role it can take in the extradition.

Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty but special requests may be approved by the cabinet. The embassy's first secretary said they were waiting for the investigations to complete so that they submit the extradition's formal request.

So far, no official or judicial statement has been issued in Beirut over the detention, and the general prosecutor refused to give any comment, but a government source said the Japanese suspects were holding fake passports including one suspect holding fake passport from the People's Republic of China. The Lebanese interior ministry will issue a statement in this regard once it confirms the identity of the arrested persons. Some 17 press reporter arrived to Beirut during the last two days, including correspondents of the Japanese prominent T.V stations, newspapers and news agencies. The reporters said they find it difficult to have information on the case and expect a statement or press conference on it.

The news reports in Beirut said the arrest of the Japanese persons was a surprise to the political society, the media and the diplomacy, recalled that Japan was tracking the rebel group for more than three decades.

Japan, a giant economical power with an architected role in the Golan as a peace keeper if and when a peace accord is signed, also its contribution in the ongoing reconstruction plan in Lebanon, and its huge investment if it decides, all were blocked by giving the pretext that the existence of the group posed a danger to more active role by Japan. The reports see the arrest of the red army members is similar to the arrest of the famous Carlos in Sudan. The arrest of the five will give both Lebanon and Syria a more credible image and a proof that the Bekaa terrorist based groups are in hand, although The Kurdish P.K.K and other Palestinian groups still have bases in Bekaa. Japan is eager to know if the leader of the group Fusako Shiganobu is in Lebanon and her arrest will be a bonanza for Japan.

The US state department spokesman Glyn Davis said early this morning, in first such reaction outside Lebanon, "We applaud the government of Lebanon for having arrested these members of the Japanese red army faction which after all is a terrorist group that in the past has targeted the USA and the American interests. We encourage Lebanon to continue its efforts to bring the terrorists to the justice".

The Palestinian groups the PFL lead by George Habash and the PFLP G.C lead by Ahmad Jibril are the groups supposed to have connections with the red army. A spokesman for the PFLP G.C said his group considered Kozo Okamoto, one of the five persons, an international struggler who had believed in our just cause and carried the Tel Aviv airport attack in support of us. He said his group listed him on top of the list of detainees exchanged in the swap in 1985, but later to his release in the swap the group know nothing about his whereabouts. The spokesman for the PFLP said his group has no connection with the red army, but the latter would have a relation with Wadih Haddad ,an offshoot of the PFLP, at some stages. He observed that linking the PFLP to the Red Army is an attempt to label the PFLP as a part of the international terrorism.

In the same context, news reports said that the Lebanese security men arrested three days ago at a monastery in Kesrouan an Iraqi Christian from Mosul in north Iraq, who alleged to be the murderer of several Iraqi opponents to Saddam Hussein. His name is Bassam Yacoub Youssef, and he entered Lebanon several times with a fake Egyptian passport, and last entered to Lebanon on Oct 15. 1996 coming from Morocco. He is suspected to have attempted assassination of Iraqi opposition figures in Kuwait, Britain, Albania and Morocco. The Lebanese judicial sources declined to give source of the information which led to his arrest.

The news reports said the Lebanese security agencies is tracking now several international terrorist groups and dismantle it one after another, something will improve the image of Lebanon.


The resistance said its fighters attacked yesterday an SLA outpost AlAhmadieh in west Bekaa for several times and scored direct hits. No casualties reported in the outpost. The Israeli and the SLA artillery retaliated by shelling the villages of Loussi, Qilya and Dallafeh and the Litani river bank. The Israeli and SLA forces detained yesterday a Lebanese shepherd with his flock out of the security zone and forced him to enter the border strip .

The 5 nations ceasefire monitoring committee at its meeting yesterday discussed the Lebanese and Israeli complaints. The Lebanese complaint was on the woman killed during the Israeli and SLA bombardment of Habbouche on Tuesday. The Israeli complaint claimed that the resistance attacks on the SLA outposts same day was launched from a civilian area. The panel which met 11.00 a.m morning continued discussion until after midnight, because the Israelis asked the panel to form a fact finding mission to inspect the Lebanese complaint. The Lebanese and Syrian delegations to the panel insisted that the shelling of Habbouche was a blatant breach of the ceasefire understanding.

Allama Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said yesterday he believes that a political settlement in the region is not beyond reach but it is facing obstacles. He said the current stage is for pressures on Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian authority in order to relaunch the negotiations only for the sake of negotiation. He added that the peace settlement is moving but slowly and not in a way that meets our aspirations. He said in the Islamic strategy, it is wished that the peace settlement die because it is a settlement that justifies the illegitimacy , injustice and oppression.


The Lebanese parliament endorsed yesterday 21 bills, most of it deal with economic and air agreements. A bill that extends the term in office of the municipal councils and mayors was postponed until today, because the prime minister Hariri, who argued that the interior minister Michel Murr is the only one to answer the deputies on the issue. Murr was testifying before the judicial council.

The parliament has endorsed a bill that restores the immunity from the prosecution for the supervisory commissions that has been lifted in 1976. The deputy speaker said it is the first step in bringing down the farm like state. Hariri said he supported the proposal but called for the lifting of the state employees immunity to further strengthen the watchdog's role. The bill has been passed by voting and it was hailed here because it will help a public administration reform and curb the fraud and corruption. The commissions now more free to carry on its mission.

During the debate which will continue today, the Hizbullah raised the issue of the eviction at Ouzai, and criticised the attempt to involve the security men in confronting the people. Other deputies raised the question of holding talks in France by both the prime minister and the foreign minister, separately in the same time. The speaker said a special meeting of the parliamentary foreign relations committee will discuss the issue.

Lebanon-Pope Visit

P.Elias Hrawi discussed with the Papal Nuncio the preparations underway for the expected visit of Pope John Paul. Cardinal Sfair said before his departure yesterday to Rome the visit is extremely important and it is for the good of Lebanon. He denied the allegations on icy relations with Baabda palace and said this relation is at first grade with the president and all the other people. He said in respond to a question that the depression is not only among the Christians but after 17 years war it exists among all the Lebanese.


Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz said after a meeting with the PLO Farouk Kaddoumi yesterday "Lebanon will not take any step concerning the Palestinian refugees that would lead to their loss of the national identity". He added that "it is our duty and the Palestinians duty to preserve their identity and their status in a way that would not imply that the Palestinian cause is dissolving in the camps or through settlement".  Boueiz said Lebanon instructed its missions abroad to refer to the surete generale to confirm any documents of the Palestinian refugees before granting them entry visas. Added that non-registered Palestinians in Lebanon who carry travel documents or the citizenship of other countries will be subject to the guidelines applicable to the citizens of these countries. Farouk Kaddoumi, who heads the PLO political department, denied he had protested to the Syrians over the treatment of the Palestinians here in Lebanon. He said this is a private matter with Lebanon.

Mr Boueiz said his discussion with Kaddoumi on the peace process had found that Kaddoumi views are not too different from the Lebanese. Boueiz also said " from the beginning we've been saying the Hebron deal will not lead to the creation of  a Palestinian state, but rather the establishment of two islands that are not linked by a Palestinian system of transportation.


The minister of the displaced Walid Jumblat held meetings yesterday with the G.Orthodox Bishop Elias Awdeh and the Armenian Hanshaq party leadership in Beirut. He reiterated his call to impose taxes to ensure enough funding for the repatriation of the displaced. Jumblat, who stepped up recently his campaign to restore the funding, said he did not call for new taxes on the poor, but on the operators of the beach resorts, the amusement centres, and raising the road tax for the luxury cars. He also discussed with the governor of Mount Lebanon the plans to develop the area, including new drains and road lights in addition to paving the main roads.

Lebanon-The trial of Samir Geagea

The interior minister Michel Murr, standing before the court yesterday as a defense witness in the case of the assassination attempt on his own life in 1991, gave a four hour and half testimony, the longest in the Lebanon's judicial history. He indirectly accused the now defunct Lebanese Forces of the attempt but he declined to accuse Geagea himself and noted that his relation with the LF at that time was severely strained. Murr suggested that no other than the LF could have placed the car bomb which was detonated in Antelias without the knowledge of the LF. He said he leave it up to the court to decide if the LF indeed were behind it. He said his relations with the LF had deteriorated at that time because of its resentment to the government plans to deploy the army inside the Christian areas controlled by the militias. He also said he had suspicions because the LF was campaigning against the plans and because Geagea refused to hand over the followers suspected in the explosion immediately after it occurred.

Murr admitted that in 1986 Geagea had protected his son Elias and escorted him out of the Christian areas following the rebellion of Hubeika. He blamed the LF of  confiscating all his real estate property in the area worth of $9mn and he had to pay a sum to the LF to get back the property. The court has been adjourned until Feb 21 to listen to more defense witnesses.

News In Brief

- The Lebanese Syrian summit which was expected today, according to media predictions, did not take place. It is postponed until end of the week because the Syrian leadership is now preoccupied with a Syrian Egyptian summit going to take place in 48 hours.

- The parliament and government both stress the need to have municipal and mayoral election on June as scheduled earlier. The Lebanese parliament endorsed today a bill extending the term in office of the municipal councils until June. The councils' term in office expired at the end of December, and it is now a month and 20 days late. The speaker of the parliament said none of the deputies want an extension for two years and agree to the June election but the government should be ready for the voters identification card and the electoral lists. The interior minister Michel Murr said the municipal councils in the occupied security zone would be appointed.

-In south Lebanon a Lebanese civilian was killed today but no further details were available so far on the circumstances. Amal movement said he was killed in an Israeli artillery shell fired at the village of Froun. Lebanon will lodge another complaint to the 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee, which after 20 hours discussions could not issue a statement on the earlier two complaint. The Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over Nabatieh and Iqlim Toffah. Amal and Hizbullah both claimed they have attacked SLA outposts in separate operation.

- The Muslim Shiite senior cleric Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine left today to Cairo in a private visit. He will ask the Egyptian Al Azhar to provide lecturers to the Islamic university in Beirut, also to present his condolences to the Egyptian Copt Anba Shinoda on the killing of Christian Copts in an attack against a church earlier last week.

-The Banks association in Lebanon said it will reduce the interest rate on lendings from 18 to 16 per cent following the decline of demand on the treasury bills issue by the central bank.

- 87 Lebanese are charged of collaborating with the Israeli enemy including a senior SLA security official named Akel Hashem, the judicial sources said today.

- The Lebanese labour union is to lodge a complaint against the government of  Mr Hariri for its intervention in the labour syndical affairs, attempting to modify the labour union, and set on trial labours who demonstrated earlier against the government policy.

-The Egyptian president Husni Mubarak excluded today an Israeli unilateral unorganized withdrawal from south Lebanon, because that will deteriorate more the current situation. He urged coordination between Lebanon, Syria and Israel on the matter.

-The shopping festival 8 days before its end; the number of arrivals until mid Feb 35707 compared to 21868 the same period last year. The visitors during the shopping festival will be received at the airport by Arabic coffee, sweet, and a lottery on a new brand BMW.

-The speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri, the S.G of Hizbullah Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Syrian chief of intelligence in Lebanon Brig. Ghazi Kanaan, and the commander of the Syrian forces in Lebanon met yesterday at  a dinner hosted by the leader of Islamic Amal. They discussed the relations between the two mainstream Shiite groups and the internal situation.

-The finance minister Fouad Sanioura, now visiting Singapore, said Singapore is a very advanced country. He visited yesterday the central bank there, a  government centre encouraging internal and external investments, and a government body that oversees the financial institutions.

-The Saudi airlines planning to increase daily flights to Beirut to four and refurbish its old offices in Beirut.

-The Lebanese university teachers warned yesterday they will go on strike for two days if the government does not respond to their demand to appoint the deans and give tenure to the 550 teacher.

-The director of the information ministry Mohammed Obeid said a special technical commission will review and reevaluate its report to the government, on the number of radio and television stations it should license to broadcast.


-Lebanon minister of education Jean Obeid said yesterday in Cairo Lebanon will host the Arab sport tournament on time in October despite the fact that most of the Arab states have not yet fulfilled their commitment to help build the sport city. He said in Cairo during the Arab youth ministers conference that only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia  have lived up to their commitments. The Lebanon's sport city cost is $120mn.

-The soccer player David Nakhid said he and the African soccer players in Lebanon did not complaint of racial discrimination. He said he didn't send any complaint to outside Lebanon, and if anyone says otherwise, let him prove it. He added that the Lebanese soccer federation thought "we sent messages abroad and for some reason it came to the conclusion that I was the leader of the group". He also claimed that the federation is circulating news that Israel sent him to Lebanon to destroy the Lebanese football.

-Lebanon beat yesterday Saudi Arabia 3-0 in Davis cup now held in Riyad and qualified to play with Thailand at home in the next month. Lebanon achieved the qualification after beating Saudi Arabia in the men's doubles in the second day of  the matches in Riyad. After the result, the remaining singles matches are now formalities.

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