The public remarks of the US ambassador Richard Jones, made at the Baabda palace after a meeting with P.Hrawi on Feb 5, Have irked the Lebanese politicians and the public in general. He expressed sympathy for the Israeli soldiers killed in the mid air helicopter crash, saying it was improper to rejoice, and that the soldier were doing their duty for their country and not responsible of their government's policies, as he said. The Lebanese parliament committee for foreign affairs, at its meeting yesterday under its chairman deputy Ali El Khalil, called the foreign minister Fares Boueiz to summon the ambassador and convey its dismay over his remarks. Khalil said Mr Jones should have known better than to express his sympathy for the soldiers killed, while on their way to Lebanon to mount a military operation, which would have resulted in the death of innocent people, or they may have been sent on a commando raid to kidnap someone or undertake acts of sabotage.
Deputy Khalil added that the crash left Israel only two options either to unilaterally withdraw from south or to carry an attack to deflect the public opinion against Netanyahu's government, as a result of the increasing of loss of life among the Israeli military. The foreign affairs committee decided to push the government to accelerate and get ready for any eventuality, by rehabilitating shelters, health and disaster centers in south of Lebanon. Ambassador Jones is to be summoned to the foreign ministry to be handed a Lebanese formal protest for his remarks, but it is not known when he will head to the ministry.
The Lebanese Hizbullah has called earlier for his expulsion because he is practicing acts as if he is an ambassador to Israel not the USA. The reports also said that P.Hrawi was dismayed because the public remarks were announced at the presidential palace.
The Iranian ambassador in Lebanon Hamayon Ali Zadeh, after a meeting with the information minister Bassem Sabbaa yesterday, quoted the minister denouncing the stands made by the diplomatic source, which used the Lebanese media forums to justify the Israeli aggressive policy against Lebanon, and that those forums should not be used for the Israeli justifications. The Hizbullah recalled that the American P.Clinton was the only head of state in the whole world who personally justified the Israeli horrible crime in the village of Qana in south Lebanon last April. The party also said that "contrary to any courtesy and tradition, and what is most humiliating indeed, is that the US ambassador denounces the Lebanese rejoice because God saved them the crimes which were to take place on the hands of the Israeli soldiers who killed. It expressed dismay of the Lebanese official reaction which does not safeguard the state dignity and pride, allowing such an ambassador to insult the country and its people. It called the government to review and reconsider its policy toward the USA, and first of all the presidency to rise to its dignity and the dignity of and the people of Lebanon.
Minister Walid Jumblat, after a visit to Allama Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, said the problem is not the ambassador Jones but the entire US administration, which is totally Jewish and namely Mrs Albright. He said the west's basic scheme is to fragment the Arabs and the Moslems, and it is time for Israel to pull out, if so there will be no problem, otherwise their military machinery will be always under strikes and killings at anytime. He also said it is funny they have discovered that Mrs Albright is a Jewish, because all the US administration is a Jewish and Zionist one, and it is shameful that this great power the USA is totally siding with Tel Aviv. He questioned whether the German Nazi SS agents in the second world war were only following Hitler's orders, and not committing crimes.
The deputy of Beirut Najah Wakim said "this discourteous ambassador should be immediately expelled, because we do not want an Israeli ambassador here in the name of the USA. Other deputies and parties considered the ambassador's remarks as intervention in the Lebanese affairs, ignoring the fact that Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel, it is provocative and the USA always offers its shield to the Israeli practices, and argued the silence of the government which stands idle before such insulting remarks.
Some news reports said one of the two helicopters' missions was to explore the whereabouts of the Israeli pilot Ron Arad, who is still in detention in Lebanon.
The secretary General of Hizbullah Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah called yesterday the Islamic and nationalist groups to join the resistance against Israel, adding that his Hizbullah is not monopolising the fight against the enemy. He said the resistance is the core of the political life in Lebanon and the M.E. He pledged his party will totally cooperate with other groups willing to fight Israel. He said the present crisis in most of the parties in Lebanon is because it distanced itself from the resistance. He described the government's support to the resistance as only verbal and reiteration in the government policy statements only but nothing concrete was done on the grounds.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri arrived back late yesterday from Damascus where he held talks with V.P Khaddam. It is apparent that he was seeking the Syrian help to defuse the renewed tension between P.Hrawi and speaker Berri. Some reports said a Syrian senior delegation, including V.P Khaddam and foreign minister Farouk Sharaa, who both have lately toured the Gulf countries, is due to arrive to Beirut within days to discuss with P.Hrawi the regional issues, and the speaker would join the meeting. The efforts exerted aim to arrange for an early meeting of the Lebanese Syrian Higher Council headed by P.Hrawi and P.Assad. Mr Hariri is to brief P.Hrawi today on his talks in Damascus before flying to S.A and then Paris, where he is expected to meet P.Chirac in Paris.
Damascus is to receive today the interior minister Michel Murr, who will also convey proposals aim to narrow the gap. Mr Murr may have suggestions over the municipal elections and the constitutional amendments, which were both the root of the rift between the two officials. Mr Hariri, speaking at yesterday's Iftar at his palace in Beirut, said the country is going through a critical phase that requires us all to remain tolerant and positive, also to place Lebanon's interest above all other interests.
Former prime minister Omar Karami who claimed that the president was "playing the role of a political trouble maker and taking positions with is unfamiliar to us". He added, We believe the presidency has its own dignity that must be maintained. The role of the president should not exceed the limits set for him under the constitution."It is a national duty to close ranks and stay away from all arguments that hurt Lebanon". Asked if this was in any way related to next year's presidential elections, Karami said, "in this country, everything is possible.""If anyone tries to revive the troika, it would inevitably be at the expense of the state institutions," Karami said.
The defense minister Mohsen Dalloul left the door open yesterday for a possible revival of the formula by which Lebanon's top three statesmen have ruled the country over the past five years. The troika may be dead but it is not buried yet," Dalloul told a press delegation led by Milhem Karam, president of the Journalists' Association. He explained that "if the original purpose of the troika was to serve the national interest, we should not burry it."
Brazil's foreign minister ended his 3 days official visit to Lebanon and left yesterday to his country via Paris. He said he is grateful to the warm welcome by Lebanon who place Brazil deep in the hearts, and his visit was an auguration of a new phase in the bilateral relations. He said he hopes the friendship between the two countries will be embodied in a visit by the president of Brazil to Lebanon in next year. He said that a visit by P.Hrawi to Brazil is to be fixed at the earliest. He added that the agreements he had signed here is not in the framework of the Washington Friends of Lebanon's forum, but it is the legal framework of the future cooperation, and later on there will be agreements in the field of finance, taxation and the investments. He responded to a question saying he did not visit the religious leaders here "because in Brazil there is a separation between the state and the church and that he came here as the representative of the state of Brazil and should not go out of this framework".
In the news today, the Lebanese descent Michel Tamer has been elected as speaker of the Brazilian parliament. Tamer hails from the village of Btaaboura in the Koura district.
Cardinal Sfair is preparing to leave to the Vatican mid Feb to discuss the final draft of the Pope's guide message which will be announced during the Pope's visit to Lebanon this year. No date is fixed for this visit neither the schedule, despite the media allegations, reliable sources said. The Pope's message will adhere to the invariables that Lebanon believes in such as sovereignty, common coexistence, justice and equality and the withdrawal of all the non-Lebanese forces.
The Church sources said there is no connection between the Pope visit and the Synods on Lebanon, and expect the Pope to visit also Syria, Iraq and Israel, "walking on the same road of Ibrahim " to call the sons of Ibrahim of the Jews, the Moslems, and the Christians to seek to lay down solid and real foundations of a permanent peace, which embodies the prophecy of Ibrahim. The Cardinal's visit to Brazil starting end of this month is expected to be successful, since cardinal Sfair is to address the Lebanese community there as a father of all the Lebanese.
Cardinal Sfair received yesterday a delegation representing the Sudanese Churches council now visiting Lebanon in coordination with the M.E Churches council. The delegation explained the current situation in Sudan and the sufferings of the Sudanese people under the ongoing war there. The delegation is to visit the Lebanese religious leaders to explain the situation in Sudan and to ask support for peace there, as an alternative to the bloodsheds of war. The delegation's head said they have no political affiliations and their mission is only religious. The head of the delegation Antonios Fakious said the war in Sudan is not confessional and the Moslems and the Christians there coexist peacefully. Cardinal Sfair put emphasis on the coexistence and conciliation through frank dialogue with the other party. He received also a delegation from the UNICEF who briefed him on the national vaccination campaign to root out polio before the year 2000.
An international audience gathered on Tuesday at the Maronite church here to witness the installation of Stephen Hector Doueihi as bishop. Doueihi, a 69-year-old Lebanese-born Maronite priest, becomes one of two bishops heading the Maronite dioceses in the United States.
Surrounded by banners from each of the 34 churches in his diocese and witnesses who included New York's Roman Catholic Cardinal John O'Connor and John Chedid, Lebanon's consul general to the United States, Doueihi said that he felt humble.
"I am trembling yet I am confident. If you let me translate this into plain and proper English, I would say, God help me, he told worshippers at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, drawing a laugh from the congregation. Doueihi was nominated in November as bishop of the Eparchy of St.Maron of Brooklyn by Pope John Paul II, who was represented at yesterday's ceremony by the Vatican's representative in the United States, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan. Last month, Doueihi was ordained as a bishop in ceremonies at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. He succeeds retiring Bishop Francis Zayek, who founded the Eparchy of St. Maron as the Maronites first American diocese in 1971.
Zayek presided over yesterday's installation and was hailed by O' Connor."This is a bitter sweet day for us, O'Connor said . "It is very difficult for us to see you leave as the active leader of this eparchy." O'Connor went on to praise Doueihi's dynamic leadership" and to promise: "All of us will support you unconditionally."
Doueihi, a native of Zghorta, was educated in Beirut and Rome and ordained in 1995. Of the three million Maronite Catholics worldwide, about 250,000 live in the United States.
The German construction firm Zublin signed yesterday with the CDR a contract to begin constructing eight new faculties of the Lebanese university for a total cost of $198mn. The Lebanese culture minister and the German ambassador were present at the signing ceremony.
The project which will be completed in 38 months, includes building eight new faculties for fine arts, communications and journalism, pharmacy, medicine, public health, law, public administration and engineering. The financing will derive from state revenues, loans and grants. The chairman of the CDR said it is now time for public services after the infrastructure rebuilding has almost finished. The University president said it is now time to embark on human rebuilding.
The German ambassador said this is the most important project by Germany in Lebanon. The university which is run by the state, out of many other private universities in Lebanon has always complained of poor allocations and there were fears it would be privitatised.
The minister of vocational and technical education received yesterday the German ambassador in Lebanon who said he reviewed with the minister his country's assistance to the technical teaching, extending DM 12 mn to endorse teaching schemes.
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