News from Beirut February 24  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Syria, Summit

P.Hafez Assad and Elias Hrawi held yesterday in Damascus a long awaited summit meeting, one day after P.Assad received his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak. The Lebanese government sources said the stalled peace process, south Lebanon and the local political issues were at the core of the summit's talks, which were held in two sessions, the first attended by Syrian V.P Abdel Halim Khaddam, and the second held beyond closed doors.

It was the first summit since October last year. The Syrian presidential spokesman Gibran Kourieh said the two presidents' talks went beyond the peace process to touch on the issues of common interest. The summit was held under the shadow of the regional accelerating developments and the cloudy relations between the Lebanese leaders. The summit, the first in 4 months time, discussed the stalled peace talks.

Some sources learned that the two presidents reached the conclusion that P.Clinton talks with Israel's prime minister did not give any momentum to the peace process, and Netanyahu remained behind his unacceptable slogans which would torpedo the peace process. The Lebanese media said P.Hrawi took the troika problems to Damascus to resolve it but its unclear yet what progress has been made on that. The Syrian officials have called the Lebanese officials to rise above the personal feuds and focus instead on the threats coming from Israel.

The Egyptian president, who is going to visit Washington on 10th March, stressed together with P.Assad on Saturday that Israel has offered little to encourage the Syrians and the Lebanese to return to the negotiating table.

On other hand, France, which is showing interest to have a more high-profile role in the M.E, did not give any sign of a clear cut initiative that would narrow the gap between Syria and Israel.

P.Assad after his summit with P.Mubarak Saturday said he is "still committed to the search for a peace but not on Netanyahu's terms. Netanyahu says he wants the peace talks to resume without preconditions but this is in itself a precondition. Under the late Israeli premier Rabin the negotiations had produced an agreement whereby Israel would withdraw from the Golan to the border line that existed before June 1967 war, but the talks were dogged down over the security arrangements and the withdrawal timetables. When Netanyahu came to power he refused to recognise the deal and it is now with the American sponsor for self-keeping. Netanyahu did not recognise any deal that he has not concluded by himself. Until Netanyahu endorses the peace for land principle and upholds the agreements concluded by his predecessors, the talks cannot resume. Netanyahu wants peace that makes him a winner and the Arab side the looser. Once he wants peace for peace, then he wants security for peace, Syria wants the Golan and he wants it too. I have not found a window,or, better to say, a gap or gateway, through which we can pass to start the peace talks. We have nothing that makes us confident that he wants really peace". These were excerpts of president Assad remarks after his summit with P.Mobarak.

Hariri Visit To Rome

Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri is reported to have an audience today at the vatican with his pontiff  Pope John Paul II. He was accompanied by his wife. The prime minister had arrived to Rome on Sunday evening coming from Paris.

He is expected to discuss, during the two days visit to Rome and the Vatican, the Pope planned visit to Lebanon, also to meet the Italian senior officials.

Italy is one of the most important trade partners of Lebanon. Mr Hariri also is expected to have a meeting with cardinal Sfair in the Vatican.

The Syrian foreign minister Farouk Sharaa held talks on Sunday with the Vatican counterpart Mgr Jean-Louis Taurun, amid reports that the Pope will  visit Lebanon in May.

Cardinal Sfair, in his current visit to the Vatican, will convey to his pontiff his home country and maronite community apprehensions, and his dialogue with Syria, which apparently lost the enthusiasm that prevailed before, and which may take place in the future with the participation of the Vatican, this time directly instead of the past by proxy nature.

South Lebanon-Monitoring

The 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee urged on Saturday the combatants in south Lebanon to save the civilian targets. It said in a formal statement " In the interest of reducing the tensions, the monitoring group reaffirmed the importance of all the combatants to take precautions to protect the civilians".

The panel's meeting was requested by Lebanon to discuss the death of a Lebanese civilian shepherd in Bekaa by a land mine. The monitoring committee expressed "deep regret" at the man's death but did not apportion blame. The Hizbullah has said in a statement that Israel had planted the mines and that "was an attempt to commit a massacre among the civilians. The party added it is working to detonate the mines in cooperation with the Lebanese security agencies".

The Hizbullah and the Amal movement's officials said after a meeting Sunday in south that "The zionist enemy is violating the April 26 understanding in an attempt to amend the accord's principles and put into effect a new formula which conforms with their interest". The joint statement said " supporting the resistance movement in its Jihad and the securing of more provisions to the frontline villages have to be on the top priorities of all the parties".

Hizbullah deputy Mohammed Fneish has criticised the monitoring committee saying "the resistance did not however expect the committee to make any difference in terms of obstructing the Israeli attacks". He added that the Lebanese government should not consider the committee as an alternative to the political and diplomatic efforts, "our people's suffering should be conveyed to every part of the world, and the resistance will carry on its duty and make the enemy regret all the crimes it has committed against the civilians".

South deputy Ali Hassan Khalil, speaking on behalf of the speaker Nabih Berri during a memorial for Naeemeh Hallah who died last week by an Israeli bombing, said "the situation in south should be at the top of the government's priorities. Other plans should be postponed for the sake of the people in south, both in and out of the occupied zone". He also said that" as we are getting nearer to the 14th March, the anniversary of the UN resolution 425 issued in 1978, we demand the government to pay the compensations owed to the southerners who suffered from the Israeli aggressions in last April and in July 1993, which were so far not yet paid".

The UNIFIL spokesman in south Lebanon Timur Goksel says the Israeli troops stationed in south has been doubled in the past eight months, and now the figure stands at 2000 soldier, and that could be a misleading number as it could have been tripled or quadruple since the border is in their hands and they cross in very easily. Mr Goksel also said that he does not anticipate an Israeli large scale operation in south and this is "just a propaganda talk by some politicians who like to be quoted by the newspapers". He says that the internal pressure on Israel to pull out is growing and the fatah helicopter crash will force Netanyahu to change his policy, despite the recent increases of troops in Lebanon.

Japanese Red Army Case

Lebanon interior minister Michel Murr told his interviewer on a T.V programme Sunday that he was informed by the state security agency they have no Japanese detainees, and that the agency is under the direct orders of the prime minister, but he is told not to exercise this authority (during the absence of the prime minister). Murr declaration was another new factor among others which turned the Japanese Red Army case to a puzzle,  mystery and a controversy. A Japanese official said Sunday that three more Japanese were detained last week by the Lebanese security forces, along with the five arrested earlier. The three, two men and a woman were taken by the security men on the night of 14-15th Feb. The woman is the daughter of Massao Adashi and one of the men is apparently her boyfriend. Neither the names nor the place from where they were taken were clear but they believed to be holding Japanese authentic valid passports, contrary to the five, who travelled on false papers.

What is expected now is that the general prosecutor or the justice ministry to issue a clarifying statement. The media here wrote "Did they evaporate ?", also citing an inquiry by Washington and anticipating a diplomatic crisis with Japan.

The former secretary general of  Hizbullah Sheikh Subhi Tufeili, who is at odds with the present leadership of the party, lashed the government here on Sunday for "lack of loyalty" for arresting the suspected Red Army members.

He said "It is disgraceful that the Lebanese authorities have arrested a man, who was one of the authors of the Lod heroic attack, and who gave everything for our cause. They are treating him as a criminal and want to sell him". Tufeili was refering to Kozo Okamoto who carried the 1972 attack at the Lod airport near Tel Aviv.

News In Brief

- The MEA stewards planned strike on Sunday was called off after the MEA responded to some of their demands including compensations and pay rise.

- The mount of Lebanon's governor Suheil Yamout, criticising the planned decentralized system which will transform the 5 present governorates into 24, by transforming each of the present Qadaa into a governorate, and saying too it is not feasible to represent all the central ministries in each Qadaa, now to be Mohafazat. The governor's remark prompted the interior minister to censure Yamout for his questioning and threatened him of the "most severe disciplinary measures" for giving political statement without receiving the permission beforehand.

-The Bekaa Typhoid now regarded as an epidemic with 800 cases already reported. The Minister of housing and deputy of Bekaa Mahmoud Abu Hamdan called for a radical solution of the potable water networks there and cleaning the water source at Yahfoufa, which may have caused the typhoid.

-Nasser Nasrallah, director general of the Litani river project, warned yesterday that Lebanon may face a water shortage in 2015, despite the general idea that Lebanon has a surplus of water reserves. Nasrallah also said "it is a wrong idea that Lebanon is a water heaven, or a lake of water or has water more than its need".

-Lebanon council of ministers is to discuss over 25 items during its weekly session on Wednesday.

-The interior ministry announced the start of the procedure to obtain the new electoral identification card for the coming municipal elections. Starting with a special application from, available at the mayors' offices or the police stations, two recent photos should be attached to the form, and be submitted either to the mayor office or the police station. The card will be delivered within one month time.

-The internationally famous Baalbeck Festivals will rebirth again at the end of July this year with the help of the tourism ministry and the approval of  the council of ministers. The festivals, which first started in 1957 had stopped in 1975. This year it is planned to continue for two weeks long with performances now to be chosen and broadcasted on the satellites on time.

-The new scales of salaries for the public sector, estimated to cost an annual L.L600-900 bn, will dominate the front pages shortly. The parliament will go ahead to discuss it at its finance committee, thus, igniting another row with Mr Hariri who oppose its financial burdens on the fiscal budget and the financial situation.

-The major amendments on the new municipal councils' law include the appointment of the councils in the occupied security zone after the consent  of all the deputies of the constituency, fixing a time limit to apply and receive the identification card, and extending the term in office of the mayor to 6 instead of 4 years.

-The first lady Mona Hrawi said at a seminar on the Lebanese working women that the working women average in 1990 was 27.8 per cent out of the labour power in Lebanon. She called for the amendment of the Lebanese labour law to match with the developments of the working women and to preserve their rights.

- A Lebanese, George Hassib al Karrab, is reported to be murdered in the state of Texas-USA by thieves who shot him inside his private shop.

- The Lebanese consul in Alberta -Canada Samir el Ghosein said two members of  the state parliament are of Lebanese descent, Mohammed Omeiri and Hussein Shehadeh, who hail from the village of Lala in Bekaa. He added that some 35 thousand Lebanese or Lebanese descent are now living in Canada, and the first Lebanese who emigrated to the state of Alberta was in 1873. Consul Ghosein was assigned by the Alberta state to tour in the Arab world to win its vote in favour of establishing the world fair in Calgary which is facing the competition of the Japanese town Nagoya.

- State minister Ghazi Saifeddine and the minister of culture Fawzi Hubeish with other officials participated Sunday in the auguration of Bassel el Assad social and cultural centre in Baalbeck.


- In 1996, it is estimated that 20 million new Internet users were added worldwide ,versus, the set up of 40 million telephone lines, 30 million mobile telephones and 16 million cable television. In Lebanon, even if the most optimistic projections point to 6000 new Internet users in 1996, the number is low when compared to more than 300 thousand new mobile and land telephone lines in service, or the estimated infrastructure capacity of 1.5 million lines. In 1996, there were 1.2 billion television, 900 million telephones, 250 million PC's users and about 50 million Internet PC users worldwide.

As a conclusion, the Internet users is still a small number compared to other telecommunications media. The Internet usage in Lebanon is still at an embryonic stage, but this is normal, given its rapid growth rate of 15-20 per cent per month. One of the factors that affect the Internet in Lebanon is the lack of a critical mass of users. On the bright side, it will pass the novelty or trendy stage to more beneficial use. Some of the most promising areas are the education, tourism, and the electronic commerce for businessmen and the consumers segments, but before that, the Internet access costs will have to continue to fall at even more rapid levels.


-The Lebanese international attacker Wael Nazha scored Sunday the only goal for Nijmeh two minutes before the end of the match with Tadamoun -Tyre. The match, held at Bourj Hammoud stadium attracted considerable crowd but it was hampered by the bad weather condition.

- On Saturday, the Homentmen won against Burj 2-1 at the muddy Safa stadium in Beirut. The game was marred by the dismissal of the Homentmen player Rafi after hitting the Burj player Mustafa Zoeiter.

-The Friday match between Akhaa -Aley and Safa was stopped after the first half because of the poor weather conditions and the bad condition of the pitch.

-Two other matches between the Racing and Shabiba and between the Homenmen and the Riyda wal Adab were also suspended for the same reasons above.

-In Tripoli, the Salam-Zghorta beat Shabab Sahel yesterday with 1-0.

-At Sidon stadium, the Ansar beat Hikmeh with 2-1.

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