Lebanon legislature will resume the debates to discuss the 1997 budget's proposal today at 10.30 a.m ,which will end with a vote on the L.L. 6,433 bn budget proposal, and undoubtedly will be overwhelmingly approved.
The prime minister Rafic Hariri and the minister of justice will respond to the remarks and critics raised by the parliament members during the past 5 days. Other ministers have earlier given their responses. On the Saturday's session, former speaker Hussein Husseini, Pierre Dacache, Butros Harb and Mohammed A. Beydoun were among the prominent deputies who addressed the assembly. The Saturday session marked a heated argument between the speaker and information minister Bassem Sabaa over a L.L60 bn to the state run television station "TELE LIBAN" aiming to renovate the company and pay debts, including the staff's compensations. The minister said the money was spent as it should have been but admitted that the station is not profitable yet and requires more cash injections amounting to 1.2 billion L.L a month. The speaker asked who owns the station, recalled that according to the audio visual law, passed lately, the station should be totally owned by the state. At the time being, Mr Rafic Hariri owns 49 per cent of the shares.
The case of the licenses to the private stations was also raised on Saturday and the deputy speaker threatened to freeze the bill relevant to the media law. The information minister promised to settle the case of licenses in an approximately three months time. The prominent opposition figures accused the government of sinking the country in debts and considered the government accountable for number of failures. Deputy Butros Harb questioned the government how it chased some youths for distributing an unidentified leaflet while same time it ignored the news of embezzlements, which was aired recently. He asked the justice minister either to be straight or resign.
On the Sunday's sermon, Cardinal Sfair said the parliament's debating signified that there is no working plan neither the accurate accountability of the various autonomous funds or coordination between the ministries. He argued whether the news over embezzlements, trading the accusations and the high debts figures, which are huge burdens on the public, are the image which the Lebanese wish to have of those running its public affairs. He said there are mounting complaints of the high cost fees of the education and the hospitalization.
For the first time since the disappearance of the well known Shiite senior religious leader Imam Mussa Sadre, some 20 years ago, the Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, in a T.V interview with the Lebanese interviewer Maghi Farah, called for the formation of a Lebanese-Libyan investigation committee to reveal the implications of his disappearance. He insisted that Imam Mussa Sadre did depart Libya.
Hizbullah announced its fighters have carried two operations on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The SLA sources said two Katyusha rockets struck Saturday morning an SLA post near the deserted Kfarfalous village in Jezzine area. No group has claimed the responsibility of firing the Katyusha which this time fell in the security zone. The security reports said the weekend has marked intensive Israeli warplanes reconnaissance flights and several mock raids causing sonic boom. The Israeli officials reiterated during the weekend their accusation to Damascus of backing the terrorist groups and at the same time seeking to resume the peace talks.
The Israeli defense minister called Syria to be interested in the diplomatic process same as Israel, and to exert its efforts with the Hizbullah in order to halt the terrorist operations. He said he does not know if the halt of attacks is a pre condition to resume the peace talks, but he said both matters are contradictory as the continuation of terrorism will not allow pushing the peace ahead.
The senior Shiite cleric Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine called Saturday the Arab states to rebuild the Arab solidarity on the basis of the Khartoum principles which are NO recognition, NO negotiations and NO peace with the state of Israel. He argued why Israel is allowed to have it's NO's and not the Arabs. He said " if the Arabs had adhered to the Khartoum principles ,we would not have reached the present situation". The Israeli prime minister Netanyahu NO's since he assumed his post in June are No to peace for land formula, NO to withdrawal from the Golan, NO to the establishment of the Palestinian independent state, No to negotiating the status of Jerusalem.
The Lebanese security sources said the Israeli backed SLA militia will set free some of the Lebanese detainees at the Khiam concentration camp in the occasion of the Eid El Fitr next week. The number of those going to be released is not given but some 200 Lebanese are detained in the Khiam prison.
The first Saudi airlines inaugural flight arrived to Beirut airport coming from Riyadh on Saturday, with the Saudi ambassador in Lebanon and the officials of the kingdom's airliner on board. They were received at the runway by transport minister and other officials. The flight is the first since 15 years and it coincided with the first day of the shopping festival.
The first flight of the newly delivered airbus planes of the MEA failed to take off in its first flight service. The company said a technical failure in one of the engines was reported and obliged the company to cancel the first flight destined to Milan in Italy. French technicians who came on board of the plane from Toulouze to Beirut tried hard to repair but unsuccessfully.
The passengers on board were taken to a Boeing 707 which took off after 2 hours delay.
The Hochtief/CCC, a joint company contracted to renovate the Beirut airport according to a 1995 tender, is adopting a policy of go-slow and halt works on the marine wall, because of the problem of late payment by the council for Development and Reconstruction CDR. The tender was accorded for an amount of $387 mn. Officials from the German Hochtief and the Athens based CCC are due to arrive to settle the problem and discuss the nonpayment problem with the CDR.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri, at an Iftar held Sunday to the Iqlim Kharoub notables, said there were plenty of projects to the Iqlim and all were accorded. He said there will be a new attitude toward the displaced case, denying that the past dealing was wrong he said considering the experience which was gained in the past, there should be more focus on rebuilding the displaced houses not anything else. He also said the case of the infrastructures in the displaced villages is to be resolved but it is connected to the case of the displaced fund which should receive steady financial resources. He said the displaced fund, the council of south, and the high relief committee are doing extraordinary work and should have enough resources. He said the justice minister will respond today to critics over embezzlements and giving contracts without tenders. "All major projects were accorded after public tenders" but admitted that some small projects for the public works, defense ministry and others, were accorded without tenders because it was badly needed and should not have evoked such political row.
Reports said thousands of bargain hunters crowded in Beirut's shopping districts to benefit the cheap prices offered this month. Some said it was a buying frenzy. At Hamra, Furn El Chebback, Mar Elias, and Verdun, streets were crowded with shoppers taking advantage of the sales. The Red Shoe in Hamra was forced to restrict entry one hour after the opening at 8.30 and closed early in the evening when the stock was already sold out.
At ABC -Dbayeh it was similarly crammed with shoppers, and the large numbers were non-Lebanese as the car parking lot was packed with Syrian license plates.
The economy minister officially opened the festival at a reception held at Qadmous hotel in Ain Mreisse. He announced that the festival "on its first day promises to be a success at all levels. It is the first step in a bid to restore Lebanon to its past glory as a center for tourism, commerce and shopping" he said.
The Brazilian foreign minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia is due to arrive today for two-days visit to Beirut for talks on the bilateral relations and the M.E peace process. The Lebanese foreign ministry said it is the first by a Brazilian high ranking official since 1877 when the Brazilian emperor dom Pedro 11 visited Lebanon, which was then under Ottoman empire. Some 8 millions of Lebanese descent live in Brazil.
Swedish foreign minister ended his two days visit to Beirut on Saturday. He said upon departure that Europe should play a major role on all economical, political, and cultural levels in the M.E region. He said the course of the peace process should be maintained because the alternative will be serious, and efforts of the parties concerned including Europe, and naturally the USA, should work altogether. He said the Hebron deal should be considered as a step which comes before the coming future steps.
The council of ministers is going to discuss at Wednesday the following major topics:
The General Labour Confederation GLC, supposed to elect 10 members to the board of directors of the social security fund, said the election did not take place because the representative of the Labour ministry did not show up on time. The confederation accused the government of deliberately seeking to sabotage the elections. The confederation union's leader Elias Abu Rizk claimed that the government is seeking to turn social security over to private insurance companies and to privatise the health care. He called the beneficiaries of the GLC to get ready to take to the streets to defend the social security, and called the government to take its hands off it.
The Solidere company is going to announce today a sharp rise in profits for 1996 to around $60 mn, double the figure of last year, a Solidere source said. The increase stems from property sales in the Beirut downtown district.
The net profit for 1995 was $32.2mn up $14mn from 1994 when the Solidere was founded. In 1995, the company achieved $199mn worth of sales of which $176.5 mn were not included in the 1995 annual report as they were not completed. The income of these sales, received in 1996, will have contributed to the profit increase, and some additional revenues included the interest on the company cash believed to be around $300 mn. There are around 35 thousands shareholders and $2bn worth of shares registered on the Beirut stock exchange. The company's shares are divided into two categories, the A shares worth of $1.17 bn which were given to property rights holders in the downtown Beirut in exchange for their buildings and the B shares which were issued in an oversubscribed $650 offering in May 1994.
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