News from Beirut February 21  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Israel, Condemnation

The 5 nations ceasefire monitoring committee issued yesterday a statement which unanimously condemned the Israeli shelling on Feb 18, which affected the villages of Habbouche, Arabsalim and Kfarruman. The statement, issued after two days of heated debate lasting 28 consecutive hours, said " the committee expresses serious concern at the killing of a Lebanese woman, as a result of the Israeli forces military action and those cooperating with them. The committee considers them responsible for the manner in which they conducted their firing". The Yesterday's condemnation is the first formal condemnation to Israel out of the 13 past meetings since the committee was established following April last year's aggression.

The news reports in Beirut said diplomatic contacts were generating between Washington, Paris, Beirut, Damascus, and Tel Aviv aimed at easing the fiery debating. It is for the first time that Israel is condemned at a forum where the USA is an attendant. Israel had filed a complaint regarding the planting of  bombs by the Lebanese resistance inside the occupied sector, which Israel said it had led to its bombardment.. The panel's statement yesterday said "the Lebanese delegation rejected the claim and stated that the firing was deliberately aimed at the civilian populated areas". The head of the Lebanese team to the panel produced a radio recorded message from an unidentified Israeli commander ordering the artillery barrage, and that was instrumental in getting all the members of the panel to adopt a condemnation not another criticism as usual.

A Lebanese shepherd is reported killed yesterday at the edge of the central sector near the village of Froun. The man is the second Lebanese killed in the past three days, prompting Lebanon to file another complaint to the monitoring committe. The shepherd Khodr Shehade was herding his flock along a road near the Israeli position at Qantara, from where the soldiers were able to activate the bomb by the remote control. The mine could have been planted for the anti Israeli resistance fighters trying to cross in to the occupied zone. The Hizbullah called the Lebanese government to exert every possible pressure to put an end to the enemy's violation of the ceasefire.

The Israeli army denied its responsibility though admitted its forces had returned the fire against the resistance men inside the security zone. The Israeli military spokesman said "after checks, we find it impossible that a Lebanese civilian could have been hit by the fire which the Israeli army shot in response to the "terrorist" fire that were directed at an SLA outpost, and the Israeli army fired only artillery shots at the source of  fire. It is confirmed that nothing was shot in the area of Froun village".

The Islamic resistance struck yesterday the SLA outpost Toumat Niha near Qantara manned by the SLA men and said they scored direct hits. The Israeli forces responded by shelling the surrounding area for several hours. The AMAL movement said its men detonated yesterday at 4.15 p.m a road side bomb while an Israeli patrol passed by as heading to its post at the Beaufort castle. The Israeli army said no casualties were incurred.

A Lebanese 70 years old shepherd was deported yesterday from Roum near Jezzine after two days in detention by the Israeli troops who accused him of collaborating with the Islamic resistance.

Lebanon's Parliament- Municipal Election

The Lebanese parliament in the second day of a general debate yesterday, unanimously approved the extension of term in office of the mayors and the municipal councils until the end of June this year, a step aims only to legalize the mayors and municipal councils until the elections is held on 1st and 8th June.

The parliament endorsed having election on time, as scheduled earlier, after the interior minister assured that the identification cards are ready and the voters lists will be renovated by mid April.

The parliament move was aimed to put down speculations and leaks that there is tendency to postpone it. The move came amid speculations that the elections would be delayed if the government did not update the voters registrations lists, issue the identifications cards, and pass a new administrative decentralized system's bill. The speaker of the parliament stressed the parliament commitment to hold the elections on time. The interior minister said in the occupied sector there will be appointments instead of elections.

Aside from the elections, the parliament passed yesterday two more bills rising up the total bills it endorsed at the general debate to 27. The speaker, who in December fell out with his two troika partners because the date of this elections was decided without his approval, put the responsibility squarely on the government should the elections be postponed. He said the parliament and the government, by unanimity, want the elections to be held on time, and by that he was sending the signal to those who leaked that he is opposed to the elections.

P.Elias Hrawi quoted saying it is important to have the elections on time and there should be no more extension of the term. He was also quoted saying the voters registrations lists and the identification cards are finalized, and the elections is a democratic must as it helps develop the villages and towns. If the elections is held on time it will the first such in Lebanon in 34 years.

The Japanese Red Army Story

The Lebanese judicial sources quoted saying the investigations are underway and not possible to make conclusions before Monday. The prosecutor general said yesterday they were still trying to determine if the five persons arrested last weekend are members of the Japanese Red Army. The prosecutor Adnan Addoum said "up to this minute I can neither confirm nor deny that these people are the same as those whose pictures and names have been released by the media, and we have nothing to prove they are Red Army or Green Army". He also said" I hope the case will not be a daily media topic because once we have tangible results from the questioning we shall announce it to Lebanon and the world".

A Japanese official who requested anonymity said Tokyo is confident of the identity of the five suspects. The senior judicial source and the interior ministry officials here were quoted earlier saying the inquiry would be completed within two days, and that contradict with the general prosecutor's declaration. The investigations are now on it's 6th day and Tokyo blames the slow pace of progress on the involvement of too many parties, as well as the negotiations between Beirut and Damascus.

The Japanese ambassador with two anti  terrorism officers from Tokyo asked the justice minister to speed up the inquiry, and he offered the help of Japan to identify the five persons who entered Lebanon with forged travel documents. The ambassador denied he discussed with Japan airlines Cairo station's manager the transportation of the five and said it was a personal meeting. The Japanese media reports said three more suspects, with valid Japanese passports, had also been arrested in Beirut at the weekend and were being questioned in connection with the case.

The row in Beirut is over who leaked the information to Japan which knew about the arrest before the Lebanese foreign ministry. The Japanese embassy suggested that there were personal contacts on the Red army file between the embassy and the security forces and the foreign ministry was "left out of the picture".

In that context, the Iraqi press consul in Amman described the report on the arrest of an Iraqi intelligence man in Beirut as baseless and mere fabrication.

News In Brief

Yasser Arafat, who was evacuated from Beirut amid the 1982 invasion, said he wants to visit Beirut whenever he receives an invitation. Arafat told the London based Arabic weekly Al Sharq Al Awsat.

Prime minister Rafic Hariri visit to the UK depends on the availability of  the Uk prime minister John Major, government source said. Mr Hariri was willing to go in March to London to head the Lebanese delegation to an economic cooperation forum and meet Mr Major, but Major's lead up for the May election may make such meeting not possible.

Former prime minister Selim Hoss said yesterday he was following up the court session regarding the attempted assassination of Michel Murr, and he wishes the judiciary would open all the files, including the attempt on his life in 1984 in which three ISF escort security men and a woman killed and wounded many others. He said the judiciary should open all files without exclusion to any case.

The Lebanese education minister Jean Obeid, now in Cairo, held talks with the Egyptian foreign minister Amre Moussa. Moussa declared that there will be no new Madrid but only the Madrid which is based on the land for peace and on all tracks including the Syrian and the Lebanese one.

The head of the Parliamentary human rights committee deputy Michel Mussa said his committee is working to issue a new bill or decision which scraps the former decision banning the demonstration. He said the protest and demonstration, within the law framework, is a human right.

The Austrian minister of state for foreign affairs Benita-Ferrero Waldner, the first Austrian official to visit Lebanon since the civil war, said yesterday she would discuss in Lebanon the ways to improve the economic and political bilateral relations. She said she hopes to persuade the Austrian industrialists to invest in Lebanon, and her country is willing to open a new embassy in Lebanon but after finding the good location. Mrs Waldner is in Beirut also to attend the week long Austrian festival held at the Bustan hotel in Brummana.

The head of the Lebanese Shiite Higher council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine said in Cairo that Islam is only one religion, but diversity in theology is natural. He said he is invited to Egypt by the Egyptian religious officials and he is going to meet P.Mubarak. Shamseddine visit comes following a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on the tiny Shiite minority in Egypt, confiscating their literatures from the bookstores and arresting dozens of  them, something drew sharp reactions from the Lebanese Shiite leaders here.

The agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury said his plan is to increase the Lebanon's percentage of the green areas from 6 to 20 per cent. The European union will finance the protection and the developing of the wooded areas in three exemplary regions chosen by both the union and the ministry. The three locations include Hadath al Jibbat -Qannat outside Tripoli, West Bekaa, and Faraya-Jabal Mussa.

The director of UNRWA, the Swiss charge d'affaires, Tripoli deputy and the local committees of the Beddawi camp augurated yesterday the opening of  three new schools for the Palestinian refugees, which were financed by Switzerland. One school is to teach French and the two others to teach English.

Swedish health minister left Beirut yesterday ending two days working visit. She toured here on various medical centres and held meetings with the Lebanese counterpart. She declared that her visit is the first and it is for checking and inquiry. She carried back four files on the treatment of cancer, blood banks, medical labs and training on modern technologies to study .

The private schools' annual budgets, around 900, are all now before the education ministry's inspection team which will study the balances, before the ministry can make a say on the increase of the schools tuitions fees.

The follow up committee for the Lebanese prisoners in Israel urged the government to lodge a complaint to the International Court of Justice over Israel's continued detention of 200 Lebanese people

First lady Mona Hrawi augurated the Bustan hotel 4th festival on Feb 19 in the presence of many ministers and ambassadors. The first night was by the Austrian music band Consolium Musicom.

Michel Shiha, the first who predicted the Israeli danger on the Arab societies, was the subject of a lecture in Antelias in the occasion of reprinting his Arabic books. Shiha, who died in 1954, was preoccupied until his last day with the Palestinian problem.

Lebanese cultural week in Nigeria organised by the Lebanese community there including folk music and dance, and contributions to the humanitarian organisations. The Lebanese emigration to Nigeria is dated back to almost a century.

Speakers at the Lebanese university commemoration ceremony held yesterday, for the late leader of the students union Anwar Fatayri, remember the democratic dialogue of the old times between the left and the right, call for a new national union of the university students, and argued the delay of appointing the LU deans. In a country as Lebanon, some of the Lebanese university teachers are paid only few hundred thousand pounds a month salary.

The Maronite Bishop of Canada Joseph el Khoury, in his first declaration following his appointment, said the Maronites are the nerve of the society and freedom seekers. He said he will work to avert the dissolution of the identity and maintain it in all aspects. He added that the Maronites will be a label of the Lebanese in Lebanon and and overseas.

G.Catholic Bishop of Zahle and Bekaa Andre Haddad, commenting on the crime against the Coptic church in Egypt, said "the Christian presence in the orient is basical and what is going on in Egypt is a conspiracy to minimize their presence". Bishop Haddad recalls the remark by Qaddafi, for Islamising the Christians in the orient and the crime in Egypt saying, "this is some of the methods used to marginalise and minimize the Christian presence in the orient though they were the first people here". Among the other methods is losing the land by selling, the consecutive wars, and losing the people through the emigration and last of these methods is the incomplete return of the displaced people".

The military investigating judge Riad Taleeh charged 87 Lebanese of  collaborating with the Israeli enemy in the occupied security zone, asking hard imprisonment for 5 to 10 years for them. the indictment was issued in absentia.

G.Orthodox Bishop Elias Awdeh received yesterday the Russian ambassador in  Lebanon who informed him of the visit by Patriarch Alexi II to the holy lands from 12th to 18th June, in the occasion of the 150's anniversary of  establishing the Russian Orthodox mission in Jerusalem.

An ICRC bus transported 20 Lebanese person from Beirut to Khiam to visit  their sons or relatives now jailed in the Khiam prison in the occupied security zone. 10 other persons joined the group at Bater-Jezzine crossing  in Chuf. The group met their relative detainees, some of them in jail for over 6 years.

Three reports appeared in the news this week over the two day Cairo  conference of the Arab economy ministers on the possibilities of an Arab common market. The president of Beirut Chamber of Commerce Adnan Kassar is skeptical on the possibility saying it is always a wish. The Minister of economy Yassine Jaber is hopeful saying " we should work on that and hopefully we shall make progress". The third opinion by Jacques Sarraf, who heads the Lebanese Industrialists association, said the failure to liberalize the trade, so far, did not change the basic economic truth" the final option is to have a common market, not today ... but tomorrow. The skepticism, commitment and sound reason characterizes the views of  most Lebanese on the issue.

The Taif - A phase and a reevaluation - is the motto of a conference held  lately in London organised by the Lebanese centre for economic and legal studies. The conference was held on 18th February at the British Common House in London.

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri received yesterday minister Walid Jumblat. No declarations were given on the topics of discussion.

- P.Hrawi is quoted saying he is very happy with the bill imposing more severe penalties on those illegally use the public services and networks such as water, electricity and telephone. He said the bill was stemmed from his personal suggestion.

- Lebanon is to get a $53.1 mn loan to fight water and marine pollution, the world bank said yesterday. The loan is to be repaid over a 17 year period with a five years grace period, and its the 11th loan provided by the bank since March 1993 bringing the total loans of the bank to Lebanon up to $604 mn. The total cost of  fighting the water pollution, rebuilding the tap water and sewerage networks in Sidon, Tyre, Nabatieh and Kesrouanis estimated at $308 mn. Japan, the European bank for investment and the European Union are participating in financing this project.

-The Hamra committee, in a bid to bring back the Hamra street to life and raise the standard of the area, organised a live Hamra night time musical festival in order to reintroduce Hamra back again to the Lebanese and the Arab visitors. The programme will continue until Mar 1. A temporary stage is set facing the Strand cinema. A different band plays every night the blues or jazz, the hard rock or a blend of all of them. For the Lebanese bands  its an opportunity to have more fans too.


- The Lebanese tennis is back in the forums. The Lebanese victory in Saudi Arabia in the Cup Davis has highlighted the progress of the tennis play in the past recent years in Lebanon. The Lebanese team scored the victory on Saudi Arabia with 5 to 0. The Lebanese players will play in April against Thailand after being qualified for the Asian -Oceanean second stage. The Lebanese sport society consider the victory great and its a smashing one.

- The national education scouts' union nominated Robert Khoury as general commissioner.

- Ghassan Fakhry is the Lebanon's star in the special winter Olympiad held lately in Canada. He won 3 gold medals and one bronze in the suburb skiing. 27 Lebanese participated in the games and won 7 different medals.

- Al Ansar soccer team who is in the leading rank is to play with Hikmeh who is 11th on Sunday at Sidon in the 22nd phase of the Lebanon's cup. Al Ansar is to revenge its only defeat this season before the Hikmeh on 17th Nov at Tripoli. It will also try not to loose any of the 3 points of the game with Hikmeh recalling that the gap with Nejmeh is only 9 points.

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