News from Beirut February 27 1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Japan-Red Army

The Lebanese government said to have set an undeclared date to put an end to the issue of the Asian detainees, finish the investigations and issue a clear statement on the issue, so that it will clear whether the detainees are members of the Red Army or not, which means either the government admits the facts or deny it, a news report said today.

Another report said that the investigations are to be completed in 48 hours before Saturday. The government, judicial and security agencies scrambled yesterday to find a solution to the issue, in face of the embarrassment and growing criticism that the country's carefully crafted post war international image could suffer serious damage if the matter is not resolved soon.

Mr Hariri is reported to have banned the Japanese journalists to enter to the government house at Sanayeh. He asked the ministers of justice and interior to prepare a detailed statement on the issue by early next week. A Japanese delegation including diplomats and an anti terrorism security official held yesterday a meeting with the prosecutor general Adnan Addoum, for the third time in 8 days, in a fact finding mission about the detainees. He told the delegation he will contact directly when he receives any news about the issue.

Japanese sources said there are five or six Japanese among the detainees who are members of the Red Army but the Lebanese government refuses to give their identity.

According to well placed government official, the suspects include two with Malaysian passports, three with Palestinian identity, one Lebanese, and three who are still unidentified.

Japanese officials stood by the claim that nine people are involved, including five Red Army guerillas, three Japanese accomplices and a Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud. They also said that the three accomplices carried Japanese valid passports, but the five have entered Lebanon with forged documents.

Prime minister Hariri quoted by the head of the press association saying his government is keen to have good relations with Japan, which had taken a positive stand at the Friends of Lebanon's forum. He was also quoted asking the Lebanese media not to carry inaccurate reports on the detention which would harm Lebanon's international image. According to  news here, the detention was a monopolized action and a unilateral move that will certainly have political repercussions.

Opposition deputy Najah Wakim consider that the Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud, arrested together with the Japanese suspects, is regarded as kidnapped as long all the judicial and security agencies deny they know anything about her.

Council of Ministers-Ambassador to the USA

Lebanon council of ministers, at its weekly meeting Wednesday, appointed Mohammed Bahaa' Shatah as Lebanon's new ambassador to Washington, replacing Mr. Riad Tabbara, who had resigned after two and half years in office. Mr Shatah is born in Tripoli in 1951, and he is the fourth non-career diplomat to be appointed ambassador to Washington in president Hrawi's term. Tabbara had said upon his appointment in 1994, he would serve only for two years, and the additional six months arose out of the cabinet indecision to appoint a replacement.

Shatah received his doctorate in 1983 from the university of  Texas, and became a member of the IMF's board of directors in 1985. Since 1993, he has been the central bank's third deputy and is a member of the Arab fund's board of directors.

The council of ministers ordinary meeting was held yesterday at the government house under prime minister Hariri. The council discussed The financial situation of the state run Tele Liban television, in view of a report by the information minister saying total losses of the station is $15mn annual, out of which the pay roll of the station's staff a year is $11mn.

Minister Mahmoud Abu Hamdan put emphasis on the urgent delivery of the Tobacco crop for this year, and demanded speeding up the solution of the potable water in Bekaa.


Lebanon and Syria preparing to initiate major trade links with Iraq, despite years of political strains among the three countries and a UN trade embargo against Baghdad, the president of the Lebanese industrialists' association Jacques Sarraf said yesterday. He added " Iraq is one of the important markets.. we believe that we have to open channels to Iraq. The Turks are there, also the Iranians and the Indians, every one is there, except the Lebanese".

Mr Sarraf said the release last month of three Iraqi diplomats , charged with 1994 murder of an Iraqi dissident in Beirut, came after the industrialists convinced the foreign minister Fares Boueiz of the importance of the trade relations with Iraq. Sarraf said Mr Boueiz called on the Syrians and they agreed with the release. He denied that the freeing of the three Iraqi diplomats was allegedly connected to an oil deal among Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Sarraf also said that the initial contacts had been already made with Iraqi businessmen, and the Lebanese and Syrian industrialists will soon travel to Iraq, as this is the only way to open a big market for Syria and Lebanon. The move comes despite the tensed diplomatic and political relations between Syria and Iraq.

Sarraf said he had informed the US ambassador in Lebanon of his intention to make trading with Iraq, and asked him if he would face repercussions affecting his business in the USA. He said he did not yet heard from the ambassador since.

South Lebanon

Hizbullah denied an SLA report saying at least one resistance fighter was killed, while attempting to infiltrate into the occupied security zone yesterday, across the Beit Yahoun village. The report also said that two other fighters may have been killed while trying to plant roadside bombs.

The Lebanese security officials said they knew of one fighter wounded. Hizbullah deputy secretary general Naim Kassem said his group would fire katyusha rockets at northern Israel, in retaliation to Israel's breaches of  the last year ceasefire. He said" civilians in North Israel will one day be rocketed by Katyusha, irrespective of the April understanding, if Israel's violations of the understanding persists".

Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz pledges before a delegation representing the Lebanese detainees in the Israeli jails, namely Khiam, that his ministry will call for the release of the detainees, same as demanding the implementation of the 425 resolution.

News In Brief

-Egypt's state security court prosecutor ordered yesterday the release of  some 65 Egyptian Shiites held for four months, at time Lebanon Shiite senior religious official Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine is paying his first visit to Egypt.

- The interior minister Michel Murr said that 300 thousand Lebanese already applied to have the new identification card.

- Former US Senate majority leader John Mitchell, who no longer holds an official post, is due to arrive to Beirut next week in a private visit, upon an invitation from Akkar deputy Issam Fares. Mitchell will meet P.Hrawi and Prime minister Rafic Hariri.

- The government reversed yesterday an earlier decision banning the dumping of rubble at the Burj Hammoud dump, after a smoldering fire gave off  highly toxic smoke across the great Beirut area over most of the week. The government approved the dumping of 3000 cubic meter a day at the site until the closure of Burj Hammoud and after the implementation of an emergency plan on waste management, information minister said after the cabinet meeting yesterday.

-Four thousand traffic signals made in Italy will be set up in Beirut's streets by the end of next April, Beirut governor Nicolas Saba announced yesterday.

-Parliament's administrative and justice committee discussed at its meeting  yesterday 11 out of the 40 articles of a revised administrative decentralization system's draft law, but it failed to approve article one, which puts the governorate of Beirut under the jurisdiction of the prime minister.

-Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated yesterday his critics against the audio-visual media law, questioning the arrangements concerning the code of television broadcast licenses and the satellites broadcast fees. He attacked the institutions which are not paying the required fees for the satellite broadcast. He added that this encourages the other stations to do the same , which is something unacceptable. Mr Berri added that the  LBC and the FUTURE television stations are not paying the fees as agreed upon under the law. He expressed also his surprise at the granting of licenses to private stations for coded transmission. Sources in Beirut said five to six cable television stations were granted broadcast licenses last year.

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz, speaking before the parliament foreign relations committee, denied that the French side has any proposals vis a vis south Lebanon, though Lebanon favours a French role for being more understanding to our views. In an interview with N.Y times Mr Boueiz quoted saying "Lebanon owes Hizbullah its making the Israeli existence in  the south as impossible ".

- The PSP party led by Walid Jumblat demands that the size of the armed forces and the security agencies in Lebanon be revised and squeezed and spending on it to be reduced, at the same time to spend more on university lecturers and to fairly respond to their demands. The party also called for improving the situation in the Lebanese prisons, as the prison is for reform not a cave for revenge and tortures.

- Kesrouan deputy Rshaid el Khazen refused the creation of new more municipal councils in Kesrouan, at the so called touristic sites, because those sites are inhabited few months in the year and not permanently.

- Finance minister Fouad Seniora says he is not charged to look into new financial resources, and that 5000 L.L additional tax on Gasoline is insufficient to cover the new scale of salaries for public sector.

- Syrian V.P Abdel Halim Khaddam and foreign minister Farouk Sharaa start today a visit to France, where they will hand over a message from P.Assad to P.Chirac. News in Beirut says the Syrian diplomacy moves through Paris gate is an evidence on the progress of relations between Syria and France.

-Airport officials say some 55339 new arrivals arrived to Lebanon via the airport during the period 1 to 25 Feb and on board of 423 incoming flights, out of which 231 from the Arab countries.

-Chuf deputy Zaher el Khatib rejected the plan to allow quarries in the Iqlim Kharoub region. He said such a plan would strike at a total of 42 village in the region.

-Six seismological devices, donated by Hamburg university in Germany, have been installed by the Bhannes seismological centre along geological fault lines in Beirut.

-A new 3000 batch of Lebanese army cadets took the oath yesterday at the training camp at Warwar. This is the 21st batch of cadets graduated as national conscripts.


-Lebanon national soccer team scored equal goals in their match with the visiting Chikian olympic team, and the match ended with 3-3 to both teams.

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