News from Beirut February 22  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Prime Minister's travel schedule

Prime minister Rafic Hariri is due to leave to Rome and the Vatican on Sunday where he will meet the Italian president and his pontiff Pope Jean Paul II . He also will meet Cardinal Sfair who is now in the Vatican to participate in a synod on Asia. His meeting with the pontiff has a special significance in view of the preparations underway for his visit to Lebanon.

Mr Hariri, who will leave today to Geneva in a private visit , has received from the Russian ambassador here that 8th April is fixed for his meeting with P.Yeltsin in Moscow. He will sign in Moscow four agreements on economic, cultural and touristic bilateral cooperation.

Lebanon-Red Army

The five suspected Japanese Red Army persons begin today their second week in custody in a case that remains surrounded in unusual judicial secrecy. During the past two days there were an evident attempt to keep the case out of the spot lights and cooling it down in the media, by giving the focus that they are not proved to be members of the Red Army and their identification is not certain.

The investigations continue with the suspects but the news from Tokyo said the Japanese police discovered that the Red Army has around 400 supporter in Japan who receive regularly instructions from the M.E.  via Japanese visiting the region as medical volunteers. There are reports that the number of detainees in Beirut is now 10. The Japanese embassy refused to confirm or deny a report saying two more Japanese were detained along with the five.

Meanwhile, Japan was pressing ahead with the preparations for what they still believe is the inevitable extradition of  the suspects they are confident belong to the Red Army. Some 400 policeman from the Tokyo metropolitan police has been assembled in Japan and waiting to leave to Beirut to provide security during the extradition.

The Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud, who was arrested in Bekaa on the suspicion she may have dealings with the group also remains in custody. The Parliament deputy Najah Wakim said he volunteered as a lawyer to defend Abboud, a cousin of the martyr Loyla Abboud and Nicolas Abboud, a family that sacrificed for the country's liberation of Israel.

The Lebanese authorities told the Japanese diplomatic and security delegations the case is not certain so far, and those arrested hold no Japanese but Malaysian or Chinese passports, and they are now investigated.

The general prosecutor held a meeting yesterday with the chief of the state security and gave no statement. The lawyer of Loyla Abboud Mr. Hani Suleiman said she is in custody for 6th consecutive day . The security agencies did not give the place of detention. He said he asked the general prosecutor on her whereabouts but answered that the prosecution is trying to find her detention place to take the appropriate legal measures, also the interior minister denied he knows where she is detained. The lawyer urged the authorities to reveal the case in compliance with the human and constitutional rights.

The interior minister Michel Murr, asked yesterday about the case, said " I am not informed because the Japanese are not arrested by me and I  do not know who arrested them".

South Lebanon

The 5 nation monitoring group convened yesterday to discuss a complaint by Lebanon over the death of the Lebanese shepherd Khodr Ali Shehadeh, who died of  a mine explosion planted by the Israeli forces at the village of Froun.

Shehadeh was the second civilian died on the hands of Israel in less than a week. The monitoring panel meeting yesterday was the second in less than 48 hours. The monitoring committee condemned Israel and its surrogate the SLA on Thursday, and held it responsible of the death of a woman in Habbouche on Tuesday. This morning fresh reports said the committee statement following yesterday's meeting regretted the death of Khodr Shehadeh and urged the parties to take the adequate measures to avoid civilian casualties.

Lebanon foreign minister hailed the condemnation, saying "Israel could not invalidate the evidence submitted by the Lebanese delegation to the panel's meeting on Thursday, which proved the Israeli shelling was deliberate and intentional". The speaker Nabih Berri also hailed the ceasefire committee's statement condemning Israel. Hizbullah official Mohammed Yazbeck said on Friday Israel proved unsuccessful to face the resistance men and for that it resorted to shell the civilians, thus, violating all the agreements.

The mine that lead to the death of Shehadeh prompted yesterday the Finnish batallion of the UNIFIL , stationed in the area, to sweep the fields searching for land mines believed to be planted there by Israel and the SLA.

The Hizbullah backed Islamic resistance said they struck the SLA outposts at Al Ahmadieh and Sojod and scored direct hits but the SLA acknowledged the attack and reported no casualties. The Israeli and SLA artillery fired more than 100 artillery shell from 10.00 Thursday until dawn today at a string of villages around Mashghara and Haatha, Barachit, Wadi Slouki, Srabbine and Rashaf, and The Israeli helicopters flew over the area.

P.Elias Hrawi received yesterday a delegation from Jezzine urging him to review the security measures imposed by the Lebanese army checkpoints on the crossings to the Jezzine area. They said the persons trying to enter the Jezzine area are facing difficulty at the Lebanese army checkpoints including the closure of the crossings at 6.00 p.m.

Middle East

- The Egyptian and Syrian presidents Husni Mubarak and Hafez Assad are to meet at a summit which will be held soon to evaluate the situation in the M.E. The summit date is not yet fixed but P.Mubarak is to go to Washington and meet P.Clinton on 10th March and apparently he wants to consult with P.Assad in prior.

- It was officially announced in Paris yesterday that France will exert all its effort to resume the peace talks on the Lebanese-Israeli track, and the Syrian-Israeli track.  It said it will work in that direction during the visit of its foreign minister to the region from 4 to 6 March. The Spokesman for the foreign ministry said the foreign minister will visit consecutively Israel,Syria and Lebanon.

Lebanon-Geagea Trial

The defense witnesses in the case of the 1991 attempted assassination of the then defense minister Michel Murr, gave yesterday their final testimonies. The main focus of the defense was to disprove the claims that the two booby trapped cars belonged to the LF. Witness Capt. Maher Halabi, who was in charge of the investigations on the explosions, said the first car was a BMW, and the second was a Buick which appeared in a picture behind the BMW.

The witness Charbel Akiki who worked as an LF security agent under Tony Elias , and Elias Tony Obeid, said the LF security had many BMW'S but one Buick. He said the Buick picture shown to him at the court was not the one the LF security agency used to own.

The witness Milad helou could not disprove the Buick in the picture was one the LF had. He said the LF vehicles used to be under heavy guard and he did not himself see the vehicles.

Jacques Menassa, who was the head of the LF arsenal, said once the 1990 battle between the LF and the army was over, he never handed out explosives to any LF agency.

The judicial council decided to add to the file the Geagea defendants request asking for testimony from the former minister Albert Mansour and Jubran Tueini. The judicial Council adjourned until 5th March to hear the prosecution statement and the defense closing argument.

The Kataeb party deputy leader Karim Pakradouni, commenting on the marathon testimony of Michel Murr before the judicial council earlier this week, said Mr Murr has made incorrect statements. The first is that Samir Geagea set  two conditions in 1986 to let Elie Hubeika out of his siege, to sign resignation from the LF then executive committee and to hand over the money which belonged to national fund of the LF.

Pakradouni said Mr Murr pledged to convey the two conditions. He said also he wants to remind Mr Murr of the fact that Samir geagea did not want Murr to go out of Lebanon, and that Murr answered him at that time saying his problem is with Amin Gemayel not Geagea.

News In Brief

- Today the media here gave the new location of the new quarries in Lebanon, which will be exclusively the alternative to the former quarries which for tens of years nibbled the environment in Lebanon.

The guideline of the new quarries location is yet to be approved by the government. The new locations include Baasir, Sibline, Alman in the Chuf, also Reit, Dahr el Baidar and Tufeil, and Arsal. The four additional locations are in Sir, Bkaasifrine in North, also Roum and Kfarhoune in the jezzine area. Minister Walid Jumblat quoted saying" in a small country as Lebanon with the extensive use of  rocks and to preserve the environment, it is justified to import the rocks".

- The Palestinian radical group DFLP led by Nayef Hawatmeh, blasted yesterday the Lebanese government for practicing a deprivation policy against the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, under the pretext of fighting their resettlement out of their homeland. The group officials cited the Lebanese decision requesting entrance and departure permits for the Palestinians living here. The Lebanese government had ordered the refugees here to have special visas to travel in and out of the country, following the deportation of many Palestinians by Libya last year. Most of the deportees carried Lebanese papers and were banned from returning here.

-Typhoid strikes hundreds in the Bekaa area. 477 cases reported for this week only. the reasons could be food poisoning and the leaks of the sewerage to the water supplies.

-The MEA stewards union said they will strike as of midnight Saturday and that will apply to all the MEA flights to and from Beirut. The MEA flight schedule for Sunday includes 12 outgoing flights and 13 incoming flights.  The strike comes a month after the MEA employees staged a one day strike that crippled the national airliner. The stewards union is demanding pay rise.

- The finance minister Fouad Sanioura, coming back from a visit to Singapore, said his aim was to get familiar with the unique experience and learn the means the country had adopted to make such great development. His visit also aimed to explore ways of boosting the bilateral relations and to see how much Singapore is ready to contribute to the reconstruction here.

-The minister of economy and trade Yassine Jaber, back home from a visit to Cairo where he attended the Arab economy and social ministers' conference, said the Arab League sponsored conference is 'the beginning of the creation of the fully fledged Arab common market, planned to begin in 1998".

-The minister of information Bassem Sabbaa, at a lecture yesterday, called Lebanon's audio-Visual media to serve not only as an entertainment but to play a cultural role. He called on the country's audio- visual media not to be "merely a cabaret for the Arab countries but should be encouraged to play a cultural role". He defended the government censorship as there are national issues which we can't deal with lightly.

-The French helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc and a frigate will pay a courtesy visit to Lebanon on March 6.

-The Pope visit's schedule is almost finalized and a special committee to arrive here to put the final touches in March. His pontiff is scheduled to have a closed meeting with the Muslim religious leaders at the vatican mission in Harissa during the visit.

-Deputy of Akkar Issam Fares said after a meeting with P.Elias Hrawi that the censorship on the satellite broadcasting is a dictatorship style which was put down by many countries. He argued why censorship on the programmes for the satellite only and not on the internal programmes, adding this is something which discredit the satellite programmes.

-The Russian ambassador in Lebanon, in an interview, predicted that the M.E  allover peace settlement will emerge in the 2000. He also said that if there are possible problems in Lebanon in the future, Syria is capable, with its great role, to tackle it. He mentioned that 7000 Lebanese university graduate studied in Russia.

-The interior minister Michel Murr at a press conference yesterday announced the go ahead of the election identification card, which the public can apply for as of now. Yellow and computerized cards cannot be forged, he also said all the ready voters lists are handed to the mayors for correction. He called the mayors to report the cases of death and correct the lists on time. He assured that the mayoral and municipal election will take place on time in June. He also assured that a new municipal election law, decentralized system law and a law on general election will be finalised before June.

-The Maronite monastery order is completing the rebuilding of its churches and centres in the displaced areas which reach up to 70 church. 15 church already rebuilt by the villagers without help of anyone.The order is going to rebuild its educational centres too in various parts of the mountain, Bishop Mattar said.

-The NLP party led by Douri Chamoun criticised yesterday the remarks by the speaker, especially his remark on Feb 6, which evokes tragic memories, and is not an honour to those claiming to rebuild the state of law and institutions.

-Deputy Bahia Hariri said The British "Prince Charles institute of architecture" will aid the Sidon city in south to rebuild the traditional old jewelry souk. The project is part of a larger scale cooperation between the British institute and the Hariri foundation including the rebuilding of the historical sites in Beirut an Sidon.

-The Shiite senior religious leader Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine prayed Friday in Al Azhar in Cairo with the Sheikh Al Azhar Sayyed Tantawi. Tantawi said the Muslim Sunni and Shiite are in agreement on the basics of Islam and they have no differences.

-Another windy storm is striking Lebanon as of yesterday and snow is reported on 1000 meter high.

-The minister of economy augurated yesterday in Tripoli "The crafts of the homeland" fair.

-The agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury welcomed yesterday the central Bank's preparatory stage to subsidise the interest rates on the loans extended to the agriculture sector. An L.L 8 bn is allocated to the subsidy of loans to the agriculture, out of a total of L.L 25 bn to the productive sectors during the fiscal year 1997.

-The Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman denied yesterday officially the allegations that the Iraqi national Bassam Yacoub Yussef has connection with the Iraqi intelligence. The man is detained in Lebanon for murdering Iraqi opposition figures abroad upon instructions from Baghdad. The spokesman said Yussef is an Iraqi veterinarian who has nothing to do with any Iraqi government agency and has no official status. He said if the man violated the Lebanese law he should bear the responsibility. He described the allegations as merely ridiculous and aim only to undermine the efforts underway to reestablish the relations with Lebanon.

-The Lebanese weekly Al Kifah Al Arabi is to be on the news stand as a daily paper as of March 3.

-8 labour unions, including some 30 syndicated group, who are at odds with the general union led by Elias Rizk, filed a complaint to the World Labour organisation against the general union for refusing to accept its membership.

-The central bank and the banks association at their regular meeting yesterday discussed the monetary and financial situation. The banks association said it will announce next week the reduction of the prime interest rate from 18 to 16. The governor of the central bank said the bank encourages lending in Lira.

-On Thursday and at Bustan hotel, the Schubert ensemble of London featured the festival. The band founded in 1983 became one of Britain's leading chamber musical group.

-The Allama Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said on Friday he appreciates the government decision to allocate one hour teaching at the schools for lectures on the resistance but he hopes more practical steps, including the government taking care of the martyrs families .


-Al Safa and Aley Al Akhaa football game of  yesterday could not be completed because of the heavy rain which turned the play ground into a lake. The two teams played until the 5th minute of the second match before it was stopped. The match, first in the 22nd stage of Lebanon's cup, will be played again same place on Monday.

-The Lebanese tennis team which scored victory in Saudi Arabia on Davis cup is back in Lebanon after it is qualified to play with Thailand in Lebanon on April 4 to 6 at the Kahraba playground.

-In the basketball championship, the Hikmeh beat Anipale -Zahle yesterday with 87-69. The Kahraba team beat the Ihyaa Riyada with 94-80, and the Riyadi-beirut beat the Riyadi-Beit Meri with 94-84.

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