European Union envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos, who came from Damascus yesterday, met in Beirut president Elias Hrawi, prime minister Rafic Hariri, speaker Nabih Berri and the foreign minister Fares Boueiz. The news today highlight his new proposal of a new formula for the peace talks in the M.E "based on a total Israeli withdrawal from the Arab occupied territories in exchange for full security for all the countries in the region". This is a new formula that might perhaps replace the formula of "land for peace" raised in Madrid in 1991.
Mr Moratinos revealed the proposal yesterday in his talks with the Lebanese officials. He said he earlier presented the proposal to Israel, the USA, and discussed it in Syria, added that the proposal received positive reactions all around but it is not binding.
Moratinos tour, came on heels of a fresh tour by French foreign minister, said to be giving new breathe to the faltering peace process in the M.E. France foreign minister de Charette's assessment of the situation in the M.E was gloomy and pessimistic, on the contrary Moratinos sounded upbeat, furthermore, he even suggested that a breakthrough is possible before May, when Israel marks it's birth. Mr Moratinos said he coordinated the proposal with US coordinator of the M.E peace process Dennis Ross.
Mr Moratinos, at a lecture at AUB university in Beirut said:
-"The report of the death of the M.E peace process is greatly exaggerated".
-"Contrary to widespread belief, the mood in Israel is in favour of a quick settlement with the Arabs".
-"Israel wants to mark the 50th anniversary in an atmosphere of peace with it's neighbours".
-"We know the complexity of the M.E situation and want a final solution overnight, that is impossible. Who would have imagined that Arafat would shake hands with Netanyahu, Netanyahu sign the Hebron deal, also the partnership between Israel and the Palestinians".
-"Some political analysing say the Americans have the power but I say the Europeans have the influence, political intellectual and cultural. We should bring together the power and the influence".
-'The USA and European roles are not racing each other but are complementing each other".
-"Lebanon must become competitive and it has the right and assets to be an open free and independent state. It has the economic means, the human resources and the cultural backgrounds, but needs to overcome certain political obstacles. That is where Europe can play a helpful role to overcome the situation that prevails in south Lebanon to recover the full sovereignty of the country'.
-Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz said the "ideas presented by the European envoy worth considering and developing. If the idea is full withdrawal in exchange for full security, then it might be a a good idea. Full security means all states would guarantee each other's security, but if the proposal allows Israel to claim rights over the territories it would vacate, in name of security, or if it includes conditions that would infringe the sovereignty of other countries, then this would negate the principle". Mr Boueiz blasted the USA which it's policy is tilting more and more toward Israel. He said "We believe the USA is giving up it's role as sponsor of the peace . He cited the latest veto at the UN on Israel's housing projects in east Jerusalem. He said such an attitude contradicts with Washington declared policy, and it is dangerous because Washington use of the Veto whenever Israel is concerned, is crippling the UN Security Council and impairs it's role.
News reports said the Lebanese officials are in favour of any European diplomatic moves to push ahead the peace process, as it's not right to rely only on the USA which proved to be tilting more and more toward Israel. They regard the slow US moves toward the peace process unjustified and cannot be understood, and perhaps it is deliberate, something would lead to shake downs in south Lebanon. However, they say whatever the European formula to resume the peace talks is, it creates a new atmosphere to regenerate the peace talks deadlocked for 13 months. Lebanon did not give a definite final say on the new proposal, and see that what counts now is how much the USA ready to exert pressure and how much Israel ready to respond.
US charge d'affaires in Lebanon Ronald Shlicher, after a meeting in Beirut with prime minister Rafic Hariri, said the M.E peace process is at top of Washington's foreign concerns. He told the reporters " you can be sure the USA will pursue it in a very aggressive manner". Asked on the US recent veto, he said "I have nothing to say further to what was said by the US delegate to the UN". He dismissed as baseless the reports saying Lebanon and Syria were excluded from Washington's current meetings with Arab leaders and Israel, and said the Friends of Lebanon's forum was an evidence on the US concern toward Lebanon.
An Israeli soldier and two Lebanese civilians reported wounded yesterday in two separate incidents when a car bomb exploded along the main road of Houla-Markaba in the central sector of the security zone. The blast was detonated by a remote control at time an Israeli patrol passed by. The car, loaded with est 50 kg of TNT could not have been prepared out of the zone but inside the zone because it could not have been driven through the highly guarded crossing points. The Israeli soldier wounded yesterday brought to 23 number of soldiers wounded in resistance operations since the beginning of the year. Two Lebanese policemen reported wounded later in the day, in a second incident, when an old roadside bomb exploded at Roum near Jezzine.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri, commenting on the news over Israeli pull back from Kfarfalous east of Sidon, said such reports are baseless and it is merely a redeployment, adding that the Israelis are still there. Mr Hariri discussed the same issue, among other issues, with Hizbullah deputy Ibrahim Amin Sayed. Sayed said the Israeli withdrawal from Jezzine is not a political issue even in Israel. It is a tactical withdrawal that is not worthy and a kind a political game used to be played by Netanyahu's government, he said. It is sort of redeployment in order to control the area, he said. Foreign minister Fares Boueiz also described the reports on withdrawal from Jezzine as tactical and technical perhaps motivated by the military need.
Hizbullah deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Kassem said "Jezzine is our home and town and it's people are ours, let Israel go out and we are in comprehension with it and with all our people in the security zone".
Jezzine deputies and intellectuals say the state resigned from it's responsibility toward the town, which is not inside the security zone but under a status quo. Deputy Edmond rizk says the state should not resign and Lebanese army should be deployed there. Lawyer Claude Azouri said the withdrawal could be a testing balloon but in case it takes place, there should not be a security vacuum and the state should extend it's authority to the area. He said the evicted area should not turn into a battlefield, recalled that out of the population of 70 thousand in Jezzine now there is only 3800 residents.
Cardinal Sfair, on the heels of the end of his trip to Brazil, said he is greatly satisfied and relaxed to what he saw, heard and observed, both during his meetings with Brazil's officials, and with those of Lebanese descent. He said the Lebanese overseas emigrants are something great and a richness and credit to Lebanon, but they need more care so that those descending from Lebanon could be more attached to their native homeland. He affirmed that Pope John Paul II certainly is going to visit Lebanon, fulfilling the Lebanese wish and hope . He visited yesterday Porto Allegri, a last station before moving to Sao Paolo for relaxation before returning to Lebanon.
-The Judicial Council ended yesterday the trial of Samir Geagea, accused of masterminding an assassination attempt against the 1991 then defense minister Michel Murr. The Council adjourned until May 9 when it will hand down it's sentence. Mr Geagea gave yesterday a final statement, defending himself and his former LF fellows, dismissed the accusations that he tried to kill Murr or to disrupt the post war stability. He stated that Murr was handed fake information provided by the state authority in deliberate action to cause split between Murr and the LF. He said the participation of the then minister Roger Dib in the government was a proof that he was not a beneficiary of murdering Murr. He said the explosion was not aimed to obstruct the disband of the militias at that time but to squeeze the LF to force it go out of the government.
He stressed that he opposed the government socio economic policy but not the Taif-born system. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Geagea defendants advocated that the Judicial Council is not eligible to study the murder attempt because Michel Murr is a politician and not a political leader, consequently the attempted assassination case is a subject of the pardon law. The defendants rejected testimonies by the prosecution witnesses and said the charges were a ploy to keep Geagea in prison the longest possible time. They refered to a recent remark given by defense minister Mohsen Dalloul, who said Geagea's role in making the Taif was important. The defendants blamed the Palestinians for planting the car bomb because they wanted to undermine the deployment of the Lebanese army units all around the country and disarm all the militias.
- The case of the Japanese five, now under investigation by the investigating magistrate Saeed Mirza receive less concern than before. The case now is judicial and they could stand for trial in two months time. The general prosecutor Adnan Addoum received yesterday the investigating judge who briefed him on the course of his investigations. The judge has received in the morning the defendant of the Japanese lawyer Beshara Abi Saad and conferred over the result of investigations. The Japanese security team conferred with the general prosecutor on the legal procedures, and the terms that the suspects, if convicted, could face. The Japanese asked for new clothes and different food. The investigating judge refused to release on bail the Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud, charged of helping the Japanese suspects to obtain forged travel documents, as well as practicing medicine without a legal state permit.
- Speaker Nabih Berri already left this morning to Damascus where he is expected to meet with Syrian president Hafez Assad and other Syrian officials, morning radio news said. A meeting between Berri and president Hrawi is still a prediction in Beirut. Mr Berri quoted saying, in a nice courtesy toward the president" Hrawi is my president". The normalization of relation between the two leaders would be a topic of discussion in Damascus.
-Present speaker Nabih Berri and former speaker Hussein Husseini, two rivals who were standing at odds, met together yesterday for two hours to discuss the major issues now under spotlight, including the issues that have strained the relations between Berri, president Hrawi, and prime minister Hariri. Husseini, in his statement, expressed support to Berri's stands on the controversial issues. He said the absence of functional institutions had created a vacuum that led to the birth of troika with all it's misery. The best remedy of the situation now is the reactivation and separation of state institutions, he said.
Husseini also supported Mr Berri stand on the Elyssar evictions and his demand for adequate compensations. Husseini criticised the political influence on the judiciary, saying it is not independent and could not act independently. Husseini is a member of six leading figures opposition group that had challenged in the past both the parliament and the government. Mr Berri has adopted, during his feud with the president and the prime minister many of the opposition group's stands, drawing speculations that the parliament and government confrontation would go higher.
- Interior minister Michel Murr headed yesterday a meeting of the Metn parliament deputies. The Metn parliamentary bloc emphasised consensus in the coming municipal election, to avoid political campaigns and to reach consensus in each of the region's villages. Minister Murr said the purpose of the municipal local councils is not political but it's an administration of the public services. He urged the public to obtain as soon as possible the election cards. He said the deputies discussed the Metn problems, including the Burj Hammoud waste dump and the credits of the services' ministries to the region.
- Lebanon council of ministers is to discuss at tomorrow's weekly session the draft bill on code transmission, the plan on quarries, the Lebanese university and other financial economical issues.
-The suggestion to form a parliamentary investigating committee to check the accusations of embezzlement and corruption is so far a merely slogan.
-Australian deputy prime minister and minister of trade Timothy Fisher arrived yesterday to Beirut to meet Lebanese officials and his counterpart. He is expected to sign an air agreement with foreign minister and a trade agreement with counterpart Yassine Jaber. He will discuss the peace process and bilateral relations with three senior presidents.
-Minister Walid Jumblat counter attack against opponents who accused him of causing environmental problems at the Chuf region of Iqlim Kharoub was significant. His party minister of environment, who is facing half the council of ministers who are beneficiant of the quarries, is also facing lack of power and support to his mission. Minister Jumblat critics were praised by his Christian Chuf rival former minister Joseph Hashem. Hashem said Mr Jumblat remarks that the state is a farm like and it is a scandal, is an additional to earlier remarks by many ministers and officials, and which evaporate before reaching the judiciary. Hashem said what is weird is that those corrupted dare to go on with their illegal acts careless of any possible punishment.
- Chuf deputy Zaher Khatib said the issue of quarries in Lebanon is in need for a regulation and the guidance plan proposed by the government should be abolished. He blasted a plan put by Dar Al Handassa and said it is unscientific and not objective. Khatib said his constituency of 15 village and a population of 150,000 is now posed to an environmental threat, if the quarries guidance plan is approved.
-The secretary general of the French FGLC Labour confederation, now visiting Beirut heading a 4 man delegation, criticised the Lebanese government for suppressing the rights of unions saying the situation in Lebanon is dangerous. He said his delegation visit is to show support to the Lebanese labour movement for their defense for freedoms and rights.
- Emigrants minister Talal Arsalan is to arrive today to Beirut after a 10 days visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Fahd and Saudi senior officials.
-Kataeb party leader George Saadeh at a meeting of the central council urged party members to obtain the election cards within the deadline, called them to participate in the 14th March activities in the solidarity day with south and west Bekaa. The council discussed the issue of students' conference and the schools tuition fees. He praised party officials efforts to revive party activities and inter conciliation.
-Lawyer Ernest Karam, head of the Maronite league, called president Elias Hrawi and cardinal Sfair for cooperation to unite both the Lebanese overseas and Lebanese in Lebanon.
-Opponents to Hariri government say that the average of voters obtaining the election card, if things go same as now, would not exceed 15 or 20 percent of the total voters. Already 7 per cent of the voters applied for the cards. News reports carry daily comments which cast doubt about holding the election on time. Zahle deputy Khalil Hrawi urged the voters to obtain their cards, and said no development where there is no municipal council. Hizbullah deputy Ammar Mussawi said the municipal election should not be an occasion to bring out more feuds and hostilities but should be a chance for cooperation.
- Egyptian ambassador in Lebanon Adel Khodary, said after a meeting with prime minister Hariri, that Lebanon agriculture minister's decision to ban Egyptian potato imports to Lebanon , is inconsistent with the trade agreement between two countries which exempt certain goods from both parties. He said Lebanon minister of agriculture told Egyptian counterpart the potato imports will be allowed from Feb 12 to March 15, but the minister unexpectedly banned the imports on March 6, after many people started to send potato shipments to Lebanon.
- The French helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc sailed out of Beirut yesterday after a five day visit marked by joint maneuvers with Lebanese navy and a rugby match with a local team. It is second visit by same carrier to Lebanon but in the last visit the crew were confined to their ship for security reasons.
- Homenmen soccer team came back from a 0-1 defeat at first half of the match with Riyada wal Adab at Burj Hammoud stadium to triumph . Thanks to two goals from striker Raymond Najem. The match was originally scheduled for last week but postponed because of bad weather. The first half was fairly even but Homenmen gradually gained control and Riyada fell back in defense. The match ended in favour of Homenmen with 2-1. The Homenmen is now on fourth grade with 45 points, one point behind the Homentmen. Riyada is seventh with 30 points. The second last week of the season opens today with a match between Ikhaa-Aley and Hikmeh at Sidon stadium. Ikhaa is sixth with 32 points and the Hikmeh is 11th with 24 points.
- The following is the teams' table for the 23rd week
-Ansar 59, Nejmeh 52, Homentmen 46, Homenmen 45, Safaa 37, Ikhaa 32, Al Adab30, Tadamoun 29, Sahel 28
-Burj 25 , Hikmeh 24, Racing 20, Salam 18, Shabiba 15
-Lebanon basketball championship: Shabab Ghobeiri smashed Abnaa Neptoun with 122-90. Ihyaaa Riyada defeated Mont La Salle with 90-80. Anibale Zahle defeated Wardieh with 74-71.
-Lebanon volleyball championship: The four teams qualified for the semi finals are Riyadi Ghazir, Bouchrieh, Rossol and Nahr Ibrahim. The first of the play off match will take place on Saturday.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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