Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem said yesterday that Israel alleged the troops ferried on the two helicopters were in a routine mission, but this is not true, as it was proved they were members of the elite troop Egoz, which is reserved for special missions. Hizbullah said the Israeli troops are normally ferried in and out overland not by air.
Speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri said the size and make up of the force on the helicopters suggests they were planning a major and dangerous commando raid, either to kidnap someone or to mount a military strike. He predicted that the repercussions in Israel would lead to the collapse of Netanyahu's government and the formation of a coalition one.
Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said the incident proves that the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon is costly, and for Israel to spare more losses it must withdraw from south. He added that the world should realise that the M.E. peace cannot be achieved, unless it is a comprehensive one and includes Lebanon, which is one of the main pillars for that peace. He also said that it is time to stop the double-standards and the UN to apply article 7 of its chart to implement its resolutions, but unfortunately the world remains incapable of applying this article when it comes to dealing with Israel.
The Lebanese media highlighted in its front page stories the declarations of the Israeli premier Natanyahu, namely his assertion that" Israel will not change its policy, it will not be deterred or relent, and no way to make political conclusions". Some reports suggested that the commandos were on their way to Ouzai south of Beirut to carry an operation, while other reports said the commando force was destined to land at Jezzine frontline, because it is the farthest point from the border.
Hizbullah has called yesterday the Lebanese government to expel the US ambassador Richard Jones, for his remarks which infuriated the resistance. Mr. Jones made his remarks after a visit to the Baabda palace, where he handed P.Hrawi a message from P.Clinton over the formation of a follow up meeting of the Friends of Lebanon forum. Jones said " the helicopters crash is a sad occasion, makes you feel sorrow for the individuals involved and their families. I think that anytime you see the loss of life on that scale no matter what side of the conflict you are on, you should not rejoice. The Israeli soldiers were doing their duty for their country and they cannot be blamed for the policies of their government. They are victims as much as anyone else, and my heart go out to the families and the people that suffered because of that, absolutely, I do not think that the crash will spark attacks on Lebanon. As far as I can tell it was an accident, and the people do not retaliate for accidents". Asked if the troops were on a mission he said his understanding is that it was a normal rotation and a transport mission.
The Hizbullah deputy S.G Sheikh Naim Kassem said the remarks are an insult to all the Lebanese, and the government should summon him and expel him out of Lebanon. He also said that the ambassador's remark yesterday and his former remarks are justifying the Israeli aggressions as if he is an ambassador of Israel not the USA.
The Allama Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said yesterday the pressure which the resistance exert on Israel will lead eventually to the pull back of Israel. He said positive results are attained from the resistance since the Israelis feel they cannot succeed in their occupation.
The speaker's boycott of the presidential palace Iftar, and the stands given by P.Hrawi revived the crisis and again preoccupied the political society. Mr Hariri has visited yesterday the speaker at his residence, and today he is expected to meet P.Hrawi, before leaving to Damascus . The reports say Mr Hariri is shuttling to mediate between his two troika partners. In the meantime, the crisis is at a stand still with P.Hrawi lessening the importance of the crisis, and quoted saying "it's not the end of the world if Berri did not come to the Iftar", and Mr Berri is quoted saying" P.Hrawi does not abide by any accord" . He added "The parliament will be one of most vital institutes vis a vis the supervision and accounting. P.Hrawi made a mistake when he assaulted the parliament in the presence of the deputies at the Iftar and same time he emphasises the role of all institutions. The president agreed earlier to postpone the municipal elections and promised to shelf the proposal on the constitutional amendments but later he retreated and changed his stands."
Mr Hariri said at Yesterday's Iftar "we should not worry the issues now being raised, as long the concerned officials abide by the rules of the democratic game." He also said that it is true we achieved political stability, referring to the general elections, the formation of the government, and the approval of the 1997 budget. The coming test is the municipal elections, he said. He stressed that no grounds for the fear about a country that has successfully weathered the last year April aggression. The major problem ahead now is how to overcome the Israeli terms to resume the peace talks, he said.
A Lebanese ministerial source said yesterday that the nationals-tourists of the 15 member European Union EU, Japan, Australia, Canada and the USA would receive entry Visas on their arrival to Beirut airport rather than Lebanese consulates in their home countries, after their governments receive a Lebanese formal notice on that change. The move is a bid to enhance the tourism sector in Lebanon. The source said the Lebanese government has approved the change and the interior minister gave it green light to go ahead.
Under the persistence of the economy minister the government allowed last month the grant of visas to a large number of foreigners but only during the month of the shopping festival. The source added that the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would also obtain visas at the airport, and with the exception of Syria, all other Arab nationals have to apply for the visa at their own countries.
The council of ministers meeting held yesterday under prime minister Rafic Hariri agreed to the proposal by the education minister calling the private schools to hold on increasing its tuition fees, until after the ministry studies their annual budgets, the information minister said. The council also agreed to evict the illegal occupants of the public schools in the southern suburbs and to rehabilitate it, also to recruit additional 500 men for the state security , to ask the ministry of economy to arrange in a public tender for the importation of 400 thousand tons of wheat and 40 thousand tons of flour for the domestic requirements in the year 1997.
The Maronite Bishops meeting under Cardinal Sfair said " the voting at the end of the parliament budget debates showed how much the Lebanese officials and the Lebanese in general enjoy freedom. The accusations of corruption did not bring the general prosecutor to investigate as usually happens in the democratic countries. The criticism of the government during the debates were not directed at the individuals but rather at the policy. This critical stage calls for cooperation among the Lebanese parties in contradiction with the rumours that say Lebanon is made of feudal tribes who cannot handle their own affairs, and continuously require guardianship. We express sorrow because of the gaps in the human rights that still exist and it is regrettable, despite the improvement that was made after the detentions that happened before the new year".
They called all youths to stop bad habits such as smoking, alcohols, drugs and sex as these vices will lead to the deterioration of cultural and ethical standards.
A Bkirki source said yesterday Cardinal Sfair will visit the Vatican later this month to discuss the Pope's visit to Lebanon scheduled for May. He will stop for a week in Rome on his way to Brazil.
The Allamah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah criticised yesterday the Pope for receiving the Israeli premier earlier this week and said "Jesus would have not approved that ". He added that" it is not very Christian of the Pope to bless the existence of Israel. If Jesus, who expelled the jews from the temple, is here today and sees the Israelis occupying Palestine and dispersing the Palestinians out of homes, would he accept for these thieves to rob a country from its people ?. We hoped that the Pope would be with the oppressed, as Jesus was", he said.
Prosecution witness, Elie Saeed Jabbour, said at yesterday's court session of Samir Geagea, his direct superior in the LF told him he received orders from Mr Geagea to kill Michel Murr, the then defense minister, in order to abort the army's plans to deploy in the areas under his control. He said Raji Abdo and Ghassan Touma had received the order together, and he believes that Raji Abdo took his orders from Samir Geagea. However, he said, Abdo told him, after the assassination attempt failed, that it was Touma who carried it out. Jabbour said also, in response to a question by Geagea, that Geagea gave orders to his forces to facilitate the army deployment in East Beirut and even encouraged his followers to join the army. One of the witnesses, Rashaid El Khazen , who is deputy of Kesrouan, did not show at the court session yesterday, as he was scheduled to comment on the relations between Murr and Geagea. The Judicial Council was adjourned until Feb 14 when the court will begin defense statements.
The Lebanese soccer team is due to leave today to Amman-Jordan to play with the Jordanian counterpart.
The Lebanese Judo union's team is due to leave to France today.
The Lebanese emigrants in Germany held contacts with the sports clubs in both Lebanon and Germany to promote the bilateral relations.
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