News from Beirut March 1  1997  .......Search

South Lebanon Tension

An Israeli sergeant killed, an officer wounded, and three other soldiers slightly wounded yesterday in an attack by the Islamic resistance fighters at the Dabsheh outpost in the central sector of the occupied security zone. The yesterday's casualties raised to five the number of Israeli soldiers killed in the south this year, in addition to the 73 Israeli servicemen died on their way to Lebanon on board of two helicopters. The Israeli army command confirmed that a sergeant was killed and another officer seriously wounded, but did not mention the two other soldiers reported of minor wounds. No Israeli casualties were reported in two other attacks yesterday by the Islamic resistance on the Ali Taher and Al Tohra positions, but an SLA man was reported shot and killed at Al Burj east of Sidon.

In Beirut, Hizbullah mourned in a statement the loss of four fighters in battles with the occupation force yesterday and the day before. The martyrs were first fatality of the group this year. The Amal movement which is also active in south, has lost three martyrs since January.

Retaliating to the attacks, the Israeli tanks and Howitzer batteries blasted the suspected resistance hideouts on the other side of the fence with 155 mm shells, struck the Nabatieh, Kfarruman, Habbouche, Arabsalim, Mayfadoun, Btouline. In Nabatieh, schools were closed and residents huddled indoors, and most shops lowered their shutters. No Lebanese civilian was killed despite the intensity of the shelling, which aggravated at times 15 shells a minute. However, many houses there were damaged and smoke could be seen from a distance billowing from citrus groves. Israeli warplanes raided the mountain ridge of Iqlim Toffah, a supply route of Hizbullah, while other warplanes were mounting mock raids over Nabatieh causing more panic.

In Beirut, the mounting tension in south was main topic of discussion with the US ambassador Richard Jones who held separate meetings with P.Hrawi and Premier Hariri.

President Hrawi expressed his deep worry of the situation in south, denouncing the Israeli assaults which target the civilians, something greatly violates the April understanding. He demanded that the USA to exert all possible pressure on Israel to halt its aggressions, and to stop striking at civilian areas, also to adhere comply to the understanding, however, Hrawi noted that Lebanon has every legitimate right to resist the occupation. The Israeli recent attacks, which turn to be an assault against the civilians, particularly at the village of Barachit, where students in a school, had narrowly escaped an Israeli shell which could have inflicted great fatalities.

Lebanon regards the Israeli new military policy aimed to blow the April understanding. Lebanon recalled that the resistance is totally committed to the understanding, as no Israeli fatality is reported in north Israel, and all the resistance operations had targeted the occupation forces in the occupied security zone. The Lebanese authority suggested that the April understanding is insufficient, as it should prevent Israel, once for all, from using heavy land artillery and mounting air raids on the residential areas.

The US ambassador said after meeting with premier Hariri "We witnessed a very great progress just last month with the conclusion of the Hebron accord. I do not think there is freeze in the peace process, but it is clear that what we are seeing now is an inevitable transition period between the two Clinton administrations". He said also " I do not think we are going to see a further deterioration in the security situation, and I hope we can see a breakthrough in the peace process".

Minister Walid Jumblat called yesterday for enhancing the defenses in south to face the Israeli daily attacks. He warned the Israeli occupation of  staging a large scale blitz, saying it will cost the enemy's army heavy losses. He gave the remarks after a visit to the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

News in Beirut said the Hizbullah is working on the formation of a coalition of parties and groups, with a platform giving priority to two topics, one is the liberation of south and the other is fighting poverty and the socio-economic policy of the Hariri government. The coalition would include Hizbullah, Amal, the PSP under Walid Jumblat, and the communist party.

Kataeb party vice president Karim Pakradouni has held talks with Hizbullah S.G Hassan Nasrallah on the planned coalition days ago.

Red Army Suspects

-The mystery case of the Japanese Red Army suspects appeared to be of an imminent end after two weeks. The state prosecutor Adnan Addoum met yesterday with a three-man Japanese team to swap information on the investigation, that both sides hope it will lead to the identification of the suspects. The Japanese handed him a file of each suspect including fingerprints.

Addoum told the reporters "everything will be all right and be cleared in few days". The suspects are now placed in the judicial custody, which is finalising the inquiry under Addoum's supervision. He vehemently denied that the suspects were in the hands of the Syrian forces here. He said all the suspects, except the Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud, were Asians, including at least three Japanese and two were women. The Japanese ambassador met yesterday with prime minister Rafic Hariri and said "The talks with Mr Hariri is fruitful. I reiterated my government's request. Now Mr Hariri has got the information on this case, after he returns back.

According to the Lebanese authority they have in custody some Asian nationals including possibly Japanese nationals. I was told that those people will be dealt with in accordance to Lebanese laws and regulations".

Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said "The case is nearing completion now that all the information has been collected. All the necessary measures will be taken to end this case within the next 24 hours". The news said Lebanon will not hand over the suspects and they will be trialed in Lebanon. Some reports said a Lebanese officer has leaked information to Japan, while on an Asian trip, on the arrest of suspects in Lebanon, and that was the reason why the early information came from Japan not Beirut.

The reports said a high ranking officer in the state security will be given a long paid vacation and possibly be put in the disposal of the prime minister. The Lebanese Bar Association, added its voice to the many critics against the handling of the case, saying that the law bans the arrest of any person in Lebanon on any charges by any security agency, without orders from the Lebanese judiciary authority. The Bar added that "even if the arrests were made on a judicial warrant, the detainees should be referred to a court at once". It criticised the confusion over the issue which was "a result of the fact that many parties are dealing with an issue which the judiciary should deal with by itself".

The question now is whether Tokyo will go on extending aids to Lebanon, if Lebanon refuses the extradition request by Japan, and how relations can be again same as before the arrests.

Pope- Cardinal

-US ambassador Richard Jones, responding to question by reporters yesterday on the visit of the Pope, said " I understand that the Pope will provide the results of the Synods. I think that is something that will be important for all of Lebanon and the reconciliation process between all the different confessions in Lebanon".

-Deputy Shaker Abu Suleiman denied yesterday that Hariri-Cardinal Sfair meeting in the vatican would have any impact on the relation between the government and the Christian opposition, and that the Pope visit is to all Lebanon, with all it's confessions and groups. Hizbullah deputy Hussein Haj Hassan said his party has two questions to raise, on verge of the visit, one is to give explanation why he blessed Israel and hopefully to retreat it, and second is that his pontiff to take clear stand on the issue of resistance to Israel and the issue of Jerusalem. He hoped that the visit would lead to deepen the Islamic -Christian internal dialogue. Some news reports raised the question if Israel would mount a large scale operation in south during the Pope's visit, or whether it would carry on a unilateral withdrawal at the time, something will have impact on Jezzine and the Christians in south.

Cardinal Sfair is expected to arrive to Brazil 9.30 a.m today (Brazil local time)coming from Rome, in a first such visit by a Lebanese Maronite Patriarch to the largest country that hosts largest Lebanese community, mostly Maronites who are spreading in all Brazil's states and towns. The Brazilian government regarded Cardinal Sfair's visit  as a state official visit.

-Lebanese associations and unions in Sydney-Australia addressed Cardinal Sfair questioning the postponement of a maronite conference planned in Sydney in April. The memo filed to cardinal Sfair asked to know what were the real reasons for the postponement. Bishop Yussef Hitti in Australia said earlier that decline of Cardinal Sfair to go to Australia was due to conflicts among the Maronite community there.

News in Brief

-The Moslem's senior religious figures called on Friday prayers for cohesive unity and shouldering ranks to face the Israeli mounting operations in the south, deplored the Israeli decision on new settlement in east Jerusalem, urged the Palestinians inside their territory to stand for the Israeli's nibbling of land.

-Speaker Nabih Berri received letters from Syrian counterpart and the S.G of  the Arab League Issmat Abdel Majid confirming their arrival to Lebanon to participate in the 14th march anniversary and 18th April commemoration of  the Qana massacre. The 14th March is the 19th anniversary of the first Israeli invasion to Lebanon in 1978. Sidon deputy Bahia Hariri said the 14th March is one of Lebanon's national stations, same as the independence, flag, teacher, mother's day.

-Minister of emigrants Talal Arsalan headed to Saudi Arabia in an official visit where he will meet King Fahd and senior officials, also meet the Lebanese community working there.

-Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine, recently back from a visit to Egypt, commended yesterday Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for his efforts to enhance the Arab unity. He also praised Egypt's Moslem and Christian religious leaders who were promoting the unity of their communities.

-Health ministry officials in Bekaa yesterday maintained that only 35 people had been hospitalized during the recent outbreak of typhoid and denied the press reports that placed the figure at 1000. The officials said there were one hundred per cent recovery rate.

-Prime minister Rafic Hariri left to Switzerland in a private week-end visit. The speaker of parliament Nabih Berri is scheduled to leave to Kuwait tomorrow upon an invitation by his Kuwaitee counterpart. Hariri is reported dismayed over sharp critics to his government socio- economic policy, which will be included in the Synod on Lebanon. The Synod would be critical to the great damage affecting the society and economy in Lebanon, as a result of the government's policy, in particular the exhausting of the state finance with external loans and it's high interests. Mr Hariri has persisted, during his recent visit to Rome, to exclude the critics from the Synod.

-Lebanon foreign ministry and the French embassy in Beirut arrange for Thursday's stop in Beirut by French foreign minister De Charette, who will stay for around five hours, to hold talks with presidents Hrawi, Hariri and Berri. His visit coincide with the arrival of the French helicopter carrier Jeanne d'arc to Beirut in a five day visit. De Charette's visit to Lebanon and trip to the M.E next week aims to probe ways for a bigger European involvement in the peacemaking efforts. He will visit Israel, the Palestinian territory, and Syria.

-The planned municipal election in Lebanon is an issue of a nation wide concern. Hizbullah deputy Hussein Haj Hassan said "the Shiite consensus, in particular, between Hizbullah and Amal, will go on steadily, including the stage when the municipal election will be held in south, Bekaa and elsewhere in Lebanon".

Deputy Shaker Abu Suleiman said the election will be held with 99 per cent chance. North deputy Talal Merebi said the finalizing of the election identification card is impossible within the timelimit.

-The USA excluded Lebanon, Pakistan and the state of Belez from the list of  states that do not cooperate with US and the UN on combating drug production and trafficking. Mrs Albright said after submitting the state department annual report , the USA granted Lebanon that status, among three states, for the sake of national interest of America. She had announced that the department still maintains Iran, Syria, Nigeria, Colombia, Burma and Afghanistan the countries that do not cooperate to combat production and export of drugs. She said P.Clinton has option to impose sanctions on those states.

-The Lebanese university lecturers attacked yesterday what they termed as conflicting figures given by finance minister Fouad Seniora, calling him an obstacle to the university's development. Seniora had questioned the capability of the university to have 49 branches, also he reportedly claimed that some 5,000 lecturer are currently not working, but they are paid salaries. The university lecturers' union said out of the 1200 lecturer, a small number are not working. The union said the LU includes 13 faculty and 39 branches not 49 branches. The union recalled that "waste within the government is estimated by 20 per cent of the state spending".

-Four businessmen and the former leader of the Cedar's Guards have been charged with making illicit commercial deals with Israel and collaborating with Israel's agents, judicial sources said yesterday. They repeatedly mediated real estate transactions in Israel owned by Arabs and gave the Israeli intelligence tip-offs on Hizbullah activities in south Lebanon.

-Two suspects in the case of the 1982 assassination of former president-elect Bashir Gemayel must surrender within ten days, the judicial council has said, according to national news agency yesterday. Habib al Shartouni and Nabil al Alam, were respectively agents of the NSSP party's security.

Shartouni managed to escape from prison in Oct 1990, and Nabil al Alam ,who is believed to be the mastermind, had never been arrested.

-Lebanon's inaugural shopping festival officially ended yesterday, but the minister of economy and trade Yassine Jaber has extended the retail sales period by another two weeks. Shops in Lebanon are allowed to continue their reductions until March 15, although participation is not obligatory. The month long shopping festival was hailed by the shop owners, who said the turnover increased significantly during the month which is normally a quiet month. Airlines and hotels also reported increased bookings and called for further similar events on a regular basis. Some shop owners said the second half of the month had witnessed lower turnover compared with the first. Some others maintained that most of the clients were Lebanese not foreigners. The MEA reported a 50 per cent increase in passengers in Feb. MEA officials said 20,000 more passengers arrived in Feb, mostly from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, and they suggest holding two festivals each year, in February and in August.

-The environmental organisation Greenpeace yesterday welcomed Germany's decision to fund the return of 36 containers of contaminated wastes. Environment minister Akram Shehayeb said he had not yet officially informed of the move. In an effort to limit the controversy surrounding the pollution from cement factories, the head of Ciemterie Nationale met the ministry of environment officials, and said the pollution level is below the European limits. The Ciemterie official said the study was conducted by the German company Lurgie, and it was found that the pollution levels were below the German emissions limits.

-The second stage of the Baalbeck-Hermel rural integrated development programme officially augurated yesterday. Minister of Agriculture Shawki Fakhoury said only $12mn has been obtained so far, and the programme aimed to achieve balanced development in various parts of Bekaa, after the end of  the drug cultivation there. He said "after responding to the international community's call to ban drug cultivation, the donor countries pulled out, and only France and Italy extended donations.

-The Lebanese woman's council today begins celebrating women's week, with a series of activities and workshops across the country in the run-up to international women's day on March 8th. The Lebanese women made no major progress on the sharing in the national decision making, only three women deputies in the parliament out of the 128, and they never had a ministerial portfolio, and have only one director general post.

-The Industrialists Association suspended two of its members for holding unauthorized press conferences in which they assailed the association policy. The two suspended members were Rashid Baydoun and Khalil Shirri. The two have assailed the decision making of the association .

-Artist Zaki Nassif is in good health following two days of check up. He was admitted to the Hotel d'Hieu hospital on Wednesday feeling a chest pain.


-Salam-Zghorta lost three important points after a 3-0 defeat against Homenmen at Burj Hammoud yesterday.

-Tadamoun Tyre and the Bourj played a goalless draw at Sidon .

-In Tripoli, Riyada wal Adab lost to the visiting Nijmej at the municipal stadium by a single goal from Lebanon's midfield star Abdel Hamid Karaki.

Results from the fifth day of Mont La Salle Tennis Tournament:

-Ragi Ghobril defeated Karim Mansour 6/2 6/2

-Mark Doumit defeated Suheil Zakka 7/5 7/5

-Hani Zein defeated Alex Khatachdourian 6/1 6/0

-Michel Sidawi defeated George Atieh 6/2 6/1

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