News from Beirut February 28  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Troika, Conciliatory tone

The Syrian advice to the Lebanese troika partners to close their ranks and rise above their personal disputes appeared to be inching toward a truce in their public slandering matches that have raged for more than three months.

Prime minister Rafic Hariri last night called on the Baabda palace and met with P.Hrawi, before heading to the speaker's residence at Ain Tineh, where he held talks with speaker Berri, the first in a month. The meeting was not decisive in resolving the turbulent issues, but Hariri appears to be mediating once again to join his two partners together.

A softer tone was spelled yesterday by P.Hrawi, who was quoted saying the "Baabda palace doors are open for all and it did not reject anyone's visit, there is no need for a mediation between speaker Berri and myself. I have great regard to both the speaker and the prime minister". A parliament deputy quoted him saying too " Speaker Berri is my brother and friend and what happened is a summer cloud". According to some sources here Damascus had advised both Hrawi and Berri to cool off their relations, on the basis of separation but cooperation of the powers, as efforts underway to join them soon and reach a conciliation, before the Pope planned visit to Beirut.

Hariri was quoted saying he "rejected the public arguments on domestic issues because it would harm the public interests". He also said "Israel's prime minister Netanyahu's decision to set a Jewish enclave in east Jerusalem "would have repercussions on the peace process". Hariri told the president of the Lebanese Journalists Association Melhem Karam yesterday that he expects no US peace initiative before April and the visit to the region on next week by France's foreign minister would have not immediate impact on the stalemate peace process.

On his part, Speaker Nabih Berri quoted saying the troika has definitely died and no reverse back. He denied that the Syrians are reportedly annoyed of the troika differences, saying he did not receive any message or heard anything about it from the Syrians. Mr Berri has joined yesterday a meeting of the major opposition figures, together with Hussein Husseini, Omar Karami, Selim Hoss, Nassib Lahoud, also Butros Harb, upon invitation by Mr Karami. They discussed the general situation, particularly what relates to the parliament's role in reforming and correcting the practices of the government.

Japan-Red Army

Lebanon justice minister had instructed the general prosecutor Adnan Addoum to close the file of the suspected Japanese Red Army by Tomorrow. He said after a meeting with P.Hrawi that " I have asked the general prosecutor to compile all the details of the investigations and to provide within 24 to 48 hours a report be presented to the government. The minister was acting upon repeated orders from P.Hrawi, who ordered for second time that the issue to be solved as soon as possible. Minister Tabbara said "The president wants this mystery case to be clarified swiftly, and that the matter to be handled exclusively by the justice ministry".

A Japanese embassy official in Beirut said "the Japanese intelligence agencies were completely sure of the suspects identity, and that was the reason why their names and photos were leaked to the Japanese media, even before the news of arrests were made public in Lebanon". The foreign ministry in Tokyo summoned yesterday the Lebanese ambassador there Samir Shamma and conveyed to him the regret of the government for not handing it the Japanese suspects.

The most serious news during the ambassador's meeting was telling him that Japan would reconsider it's pledges at the Lebanon's Friends forum. He was reported to have told the home ministry that Japan is sending a warning message and there could negative impacts on the relations between the two countries. It is recalled that Japan already extended soft loans amounting $120 mn to Lebanon. News reports in Beirut said that what mostly annoyed the Japanese is that the issue started clear and turned to be vague later.

However, news in Beirut said Japan did not pledge anything in Washington but it's delegation to the forum informed Lebanon it will take decision after visits to Beirut by experts from various ministries. In Beirut, some 30 Japanese journalists and reporters are still here, dispatching daily news to Tokyo, including four correspondents of the Japanese T.V stations which are viewed by 60 million.

Former prime minister Selim Hoss blasted the government's handling of the case, calling it a "shameful and damaging to the government's credibility inside the country, and to Lebanon's reputation abroad".

South Lebanon

Hizbullah announced yesterday the martyrdom of a 23 years old resistance fighter in clash with the Israeli and SLA forces at Beit -Yahoun- Baraachit area on the edge of the security zone. Israel and the SLA said he was trying to infiltrate into the occupied security zone. The SLA claimed that three other resistance fighters were killed in a clash yesterday, after they attacked the Dabsheh outpost in the central sector at 6.30 p.m. Hizbullah made no comment on the claim. Following the attack at Dabsheh, the Israeli and SLA units fired artillery and tank shells at the resistance hideouts and infiltration trails. A Number of shells hit the Maslakh area in Nabatieh.

The SLA said the Israeli helicopters fired rockets at at a group of  resistance men at Kfar Rumman near Nabatieh.


Syrian V.P Abdel Halim Khaddam, after a meeting with president Jacques Chirac in Paris, said the separation of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks in the peace process is not possible, and such thing poses a conspiracy on Lebanon. News in Beirut said the French and Syrian view points are identical on the situation in the M.E, and in agreement over the obstacles facing the process, and have mutual endeavor to restart the peace talks on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.

News In Brief

- Cardinal Sfair is to arrive today to Brazil. The Lebanese community of  millions there get ready to receive the man, who represents Lebanon, the country of hope and aspirations.

-Former speaker Hussein Husseini, at a lecture, said it is only a strong judiciary that can provide a check on what he said was the personal monopoly of authority. Husseini added that "the troika existed because there was a lack of judicial authority", and the initial formation of the troika reflected the weakness of the state institutions. He said in the " civilized regimes" they do not believe in the miracle of the "angelic ruler" who needs no control, and this is why they believe in the separation of powers and the judicial supervision.

- Salary scales and administrative reform were apparently a heated debate at yesterday's meeting of the parliament finance and budget committee. The minister of administrative reform Beshara Merhej said the state employees are not having enough salaries for their financial needs, and new taxes are needed to fund the estimated L.L600 bn cost of the salary increase. Deputy Mohammed Baydoun argued that with a 20 per cent salary increase, as it is stated in a draft bill, the figure will reach as high as L.L310 bn.

-The ministry of education today begins issuing formal warnings to the private schools that have charged excessive tuition fees and demanded they should issue credit to the parents or face a lawsuit. Minister of education Jean Obeid said "only in rare cases some schools would be allowed to have a 30 per cent increase, as an example, the schools which have very few students but still still employ the same number of teachers".

-The internationally known Greenpeace said the health of the people living in Beirut would be at risk because of the toxic substances emitting from the Amrousieh-Chueifat incinerator, where the hospitals hazardous waste is burned illegally. The organisation said the 157 hospitals in Lebanon ,with approx 12,000 beds, generate 5 Kg of waste per bed, or 21,000 tonnes annually.

- An environment ministry's source said that the emergency waste management plan to close in June the 50 metres high Burj Hammoud dump is being delayed because of the "procrastination" of the Council for Development and Reconstruction CDR. The source added that the CDR bureaucracy is unbelievable, Everybody is waiting for the CDR to release its letter of  intent, the source said.

- Former Greek orthodox deputy Michel Maalouli demanded that Patriarch Hazim should call for a meeting of the orthodox community leaders to discuss the community political rights. He said the abolishment of the "Beirut governorate" and replace it by general secretariat and general secretary is a one that abolishes the last important administrative post allocated to the community, since the system of governorates was established. Maalouli mentioned other community rights, urging its leaders a more firm stand.

- The Lebanese Shiite senior Cleric Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine ended his visit to Egypt and came back. He held talks in Cairo with P.Mubarak and religious senior figures. His visit marked the release of 65 persons charged of  forming a Shiite organisation in Egypt.

- Israel yesterday deported to Syria a Palestinian whom it detained in Lebanon 10years ago and was held in Israel, the Israeli army said. Bassem Ghanem was deported today to Syria, he belonged to a Fatah squad that encountered an army force in 1978 in Lebanon. The deportation was upon the request of  Ghanem who was handed to the ICRC, who escorted him to the border. The Israeli army did not say if the deportation was coordinated with Syria.

- The general Labour Confederation in Lebanon led by Elias Abu Rizk, after submitting two complaints to the Arab and World Labour organisations, was described by the labour ministry of "distorting Lebanon's image". The ministry said the complaints are "ramblings and twistings of the truth".

- One person was killed and four others wounded when a leaking gaz cylinder exploded during a dinner party held by the Bahai community centre in Monte Verde in Metn late Wednesday. The man is Andrew Wallashe, a British citizen, who works as coordinator of the english programme at the Eastwood College in Mansourieh. The dinner was in the occasion of the beginning of the sect's fasting month.

- The Independent Housing Fund will start to pay 300 housing loans next month. The Fund called on the applicants to hand in the necessary documents before receiving their allotments. The 300 are first to be funded from a total of 2,581 applications submitted three years ago. The 300 loans will cost L.L 10bn. The ministry of housing provides loans of up to L.L35mn ($22,580) to the applicants whose income ranges between L.L 400 thousand and L.L 1.2 mn, with an interest of between 3 and 7 per cent. The cost of each monthly payment ranges between L.L 90 thousand and L.L 300 thousand over a 20 year period.

- Two corpses were found yesterday at a dump in the Palestinian largest camp Ain Helwe in south Lebanon. One Palestinian and another Lebanese were founded strangled and dead. "The situation cannot be tolerated anymore, and a swift solution has to be reached", said Colonel Khaled Aref, Fatah representative in Lebanon.

-The Lebanese government has decided to open an embassy in Yerevan-Armenia, and a date should be fixed after administrative details settled and an ambassador is appointed. Lebanon and Armenia established diplomatic relations in 1994 and the latter had appointed a charge d'affaires to Beirut whose rank was later raised to that of ambassador.

- Lebanon foreign ministry's S.G Zafer el Hassan arrived to India in an official visit to discuss bilateral relations and the M.E peace process.

- The interior ministry called on the concerned citizens to review the voters lists now available at the mayors and municipal council's offices in order to correct it within the deadline end of March.

- The Kataeb opposition-Ashrafieh welcomed the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon and see it as an honour and hope for the Lebanese and the Christians in particular.

- 20 Lebanese, transported to the Khiam prison by the ICRC, reported to have visited 11 of their sons or parents at the prison, in the fourth scheduled operation by the ICRC this year.


-The Nejmeh and Riyada Wal Adab-north football match today is a main focus, out of today's three games in the Lebanese soccer league.The Riyada is now at the sixth grade needs to qualify for the viceroy tournament by maintaining their position, but the game against Nijmeh, which is on the second place, will not be easy.

- Homentmen, now fourth in the ladder, is to play today with Salam -Zghorta.

- Tadamoun-Tyre is to play today with Burj.

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