- Israeli prime minister, "depressed of the international pressures", said he is fed up with accusing his steps as harmful to the peace process'"
- Israel held the redeployment in nine percent of the occupied west bank claiming that the Palestinian authority rejected the plan. Netanyahu stick to the new settlement in East Jerusalem.
- Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak raised in Washington the possibility to end the political long life of Yasser Arafat and cautioned he would quit. He expressed worry over the impacts of the peace process deterioration on Arafat's personal and health situation.
- Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and foreign minister Farouk Sharaa had left Damascus yesterday to Europe in a new tour including Portugal, Ireland and Belgium, in bid to rally support to Syrian stands on peace talks. Both officials had visited last month France, Austria, Holland and Italy after a tour on Arab countries.
- Saudi national arrested in Canada for suspicions he was involved in the explosion at an the American base in Dahran.
The Lebanese government, in daring courageous economical decisions at yesterday's session, signaled it has recognised a current existing economical crisis and moved to an immediate translation of the new guidelines announced by prime minister Hariri Tuesday. At a marathon session in Baabda palace under president Elias Hrawi, the longest in the history of this government, The decisions taken were regarded by some reports as a drastic shift in the economical policy and could give an oxygen to the shrunk economy.
Cabinet Decisions on March 12 :
1. Agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury was given maximum one month period to list up the agricultural products to be banned or exempted, namely the products needed for the industry. The flow of all agriculture products that can be home grown are totally banned as of Oct 1. Prime ministry Hariri said it is necessary for Lebanon to lower it's dependency on food imports representing 80 per cent of the country's need. Lebanon current food imports bill averages $1.4bn a year and a main reason for trade imbalance. The classical products will be banned but items which Lebanon remains unable to grow will be exempted. The decision will offer a great incentive for the people to depend on their land, lower imports and help increase the agriculture products, Hariri said. Government earlier decision to subsidise 5 percent of the loan interests to productive sectors is also a helpful factor.
2. The government, in a review to the quarries plan, banned any sites in Iqlim Kharoub, Roum and Kfarhoune. It formalised the closure of quarries in mount Lebanon areas of Nahr El Mowt, Abu Mizan, Nahr Ibrahim and Antelias and ordered all equipments to be removed. The ministry of environment, given more larger role, is charged to locate the new sites in coordination with regional governors and report to the cabinet. The ministry will be charged of screening licenses applications before referring it to the interior ministry, also will study the effects of quarries on nature and biological diversification and issue a time limit for it's operation. The environment minister Akram Shehayeb told the cabinet that out of 710 quarry in Lebanon, only 54 percent are operating with valid licenses and 70 percent were ruled it is geologically unfit and cannot be rehabilitated. The minister gave a breakdown of the quarries operating at present including Mount Lebanon 367, Bekaa 123, North 154 and South 66. The quarries also are required to a keep a bank security deposit totalling L.L 1,500 for each cubic metre of the site.
3-The government decided to buy the entire 1996 tobacco crop from licensed farmers and 60 per cent of the unlicensed ones. The decision was suggested by president Hrawi, and would end the ongoing protests namely in Bekaa of the farmers, who yesterday threatened to cultivate Hashish once again in 15 days if their crop is not purchased entirely with full price.
4.The government asked the Lebanese university president Assaad Diab to submit a report that includes number of surplus teachers holding tenures, to pave way to their transfer to other public administration posts. The decision responded to ongoing persisting demands of the university teachers' league who are frequently on strike. The league is demanding for tenure to be given to 550 professors, some of whom are eligible since 1982. The LU president is to submit the report within two weeks. Two remaining demands including implementing a law increasing salary scales and to sign a delayed appointments of the faculties Deans were not approved. The 45,000 students of the LU are still on strike for second consecutive day.
4-The government charged the minister of industry to list up the exportable industries also those which need protection, decided a 2 percent increase of the custom tariff on ceramics to protect the local production .
5- Approved a law on coded transmission.
6 - The government cancelled a decision by transport minister on the formation of an administrative committee for the seaport of Beirut and asked the minister to propose a formula on administrating the port.
President Elias Hrawi quoted saying at the session that Lebanon should be industrially liberal with a protected agriculture. He called for great facilities to support the light industry, and that protect agriculture to reach a self sufficient situation. Prime minister Hariri said his government is looking into ways to halt the rise of public and foreign debts now estimated at $9bn. Asked about the timing of the decisions, he said the government was bogged down with parliamentary elections, later with the formation of cabinet, the parliamentary vote of confidence and finally the budget debates. He said now it is the time to focus on the economy in order to improve the socio economic conditions. The government did not discuss the new scales of salaries and the reform of public administration.
- In line with the government decisions, the central bank announced yesterday decisions that some reports regarded as most important than the government ones.
1- The commercial banks are not obliged anymore to abide by a 40 per cent reserve requirement rule in treasury bills deposited with the central bank. The governor said this measure will create greater liquidity in the market, it is taken due to the bank's increased confidence in the national economy, and the measure would stimulate movement in the banking sector as it constitutes a step toward releasing the Lebanese pound deposits from government restrictions. His vice president Nasser Saaydi said the banks invested 40 per cent of it's deposits in treasury bills due to the high interest rates offered, and without a reserve requirement at the central banks, the banks will have more capital to offer loans to the private sector. Some L.L 4,000 bn will be released now and offered as loans to both the private and public sectors. The central bank reversed decision came after 12 years of obligatory reserve requirement initiated to fund the budget deficit. The move also will help to lower the internal public debt needed to fund the deficit, recalled that the debt service of 1997 budget deficit estimated at L.L2700 bn is around 42 percent of the estimated expenditures. The commercial banks in Lebanon now are holders of 73 percent of the treasury bills which represent the major part of the internal public debt.
- Together with the central bank measure, Lebanon banks association announced it will decrease the Lebanese pound prime interest rate from 18 to 16 percent. The chairman of the association Francois Bassil said the reduction of 2 percent would boost the market, stimulate the economy, and convert the lendings from Dollar to Lebanese pounds. The bankers association began reducing the interest rates in Jan 1996 when the rates were slashed from 30 to 24 per cent, two months ago the banks reduced the rate from 24 to 18, and it would be lowered to 14 per cent within two weeks and a month. The prime rate for lending in dollars is now 10.5 per cent. The commercial banks here are looking forward for exemption from a deposit reserve of 10 per cent, which is deposited at central bank free of any interest.
- The 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee, scheduled to convene today at 11.00 a.m at Naqoura, to discuss an israeli complaint claiming that monday explosion of car bomb inside the security zone, wounded an israeli soldier and two Lebanese civilians, was a violation of the last year April's understanding. Foreign minister conferred with Lebanon delegation to the panel over the argument Lebanon will present to counter the Israeli petition. Foreign ministry here see the complaint baseless because attack had targeted an Israeli patrol and the civilians were Lebanese not Israelis.
The Israeli delegation will focus the point that the resistance should not attack Israeli patrols or posts inside the Lebanese villages, and Lebanon will counter say that the resistance has the right to the Israeli occupant force anywhere inside the occupied area, and that the understanding did not stipulate contrary to that. The Israeli side is noticed to have each time referred to a term in the understanding to limit the resistance operations.
-The Israeli army commander of the northern front with Lebanon Gen. Amirane Levin warned yesterday residents of the frontline villages against allowing the Hizbullah fighters to operate in their areas, otherwise "they would pay a dear price". He also said, during a visit to the security zone yesterday, "The Israeli troops and the SLA would not hesitate to return fire even if the firing starts from inhabited areas". He also said that the guerillas wherever they go they cause destruction and death. He vowed that the Israeli army will stay in the "security Zone" as long as it needed to do that and until terrorist organisations, especially Hizbullah, have been dismantled. He also stressed the necessity of reaching a peace agreement with Lebanon as a basic condition for the Israeli army to pull back, pledging that Israel will guarantee the safety of the SLA leaders and militiamen. The SLA commander Antoine Lahd called on the government to send it's troops to the Jezzine area, claiming that Israel was ready to withdraw from the border strip if it receives security guarantees in exchange. He said "the government is not interested in coming here because it knows that an israeli withdrawal would undermine the image of many leaders".
- The Israeli artillery shelled Jabal Raffee, the Zahrani river banks, and outskirts of Jbaa. Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over Nabatieh and Iqlim Toffah. The Islamic resistance said it had attacked the Israeli post at Kassaret al Ouroush ten kilometers north of Merjeuoun.
The follow up committee for the Lebanese jailed in Israel called the government to campaign in international circles for the release of four Lebanese, taken to Israel last year, on suspicion they kidnapped Ahmad Hallak, a collaborator with Israel executed in Sept 1996 in Lebanon after he was handed to Lebanese authorities.
Cardinal Sfair, now at his last station in Sao Paol ending his visit to Brazil, said the meetings he held with the Lebanese community strengthen links and thanked Brazil which allowed the Lebanese, not to only show up their professional potentiality but their religious one. He was quoted saying "there are others who had done what Dr Samir Geagea did and they were not tried". he was quoted saying also "Let the others be tried same as Geagea".
- Lebanon parliament deputy speaker Elie Firzli said yesterday the efforts to improve relations between Syria and the Christians community here have picked up pace and the Vatican was using good offices to promote a dialogue.
He said the Christian-Syrian dialogue was a focal point in his talks at the Vatican. He said the atmosphere is good especially after the visit to Syria by Vatican foreign minister Jean-Louis Tauran. Firzli said the Vatican is keen to promote Christian-Muslim coexistence around the world, and this is a keynote item on the Pope's agenda during his May 10-11 visit.
- Speaker Nabih Berri, at his weekly meeting on Wednesdays with MPs, said his meeting with president Assad was very important. His visitors quoted him saying president Assad is in good health, and he is interested in the European recent moves but dismayed of the US veto at the UN which foiled a draft resolution on Israeli new settlement plan. Mr Berri reiterated yesterday he has no personal dispute with P.Hrawi. "there is no personal issues and I know the road to Baabda".
- Former prime minister current deputy Salim Hoss questioned the government reasons of the telephone tapping and it's legal justification. He also asked whether a tapping system on cellulars was set up a month ago as he was told. He said the tapping is clear violation of the personal freedom and article eight of the constitution's preamble.
- Leaders and groups in Beirut and other regions called the government to extend the deadline set to apply for the election card which terminates end of March. MP Najah Wakim, urged the public to share in the coming municipal election, despite forgeries and noted that a corrupted rule cannot hold honest elections, but the Lebanese should massively vote candidates of honour and honesty. He said in Beirut there are municipal properties that worth millions of dollars, and they work now to bring a municipal council to seal the robbery of the Beirut's properties.
- Italian missile cruiser Vittorrio Veneto and the support vessel Stromboli docked yesterday at Beirut seaport in a five day visit aimed at boosting ties with Lebanon. The Italian vessels came two days after the French carrier Jeanne d'Arc left Beirut. The Italian ship will leave on Sunday, two days before Italy's prime minister is scheduled to visit Lebanon for the first time, accompanied by a 40-man political and economical delegation.
- Two yellow banners measuring 25 metres across displaying the number 425 were hung yesterday at Sassine Square at Ashrafieh and Habib Abu Shahle square near UNESCO, in the run up to Friday's day of solidarity with the occupied south and west Bekaa. The banners were set for people to sign to express their rejection to the occupation.
The banners will be forwarded to the UN. At Sassine, the public were not aware they could sign it. 20 persons only signed the Abu Shahla banner, because of lack of public awareness. On the Raouche at Pigeon Rock, an army helicopter planed huge yellow banners. The army units will today hand up a Lebanese flag over the rock and write the number 425.
The Arab League S.G Ismat Abdel Magid already arrived this morning to Beirut to attend the day of solidarity.
- At Sidon the sea castle was also bannered with a yellow banner. Schools in Lebanon will mark today from 8.00 to 10.00 a.m lectures on the 425 resolution. Maronite Bishop of Beirut will hold sermon at Badaro church in the occasion. At today's evening candles will be lighted , prayers from Mosques and churches, and scout rallies will be taking place allover Lebanon. Friday prayers addresses will focus on the 425 and denounciation of the occupation. In the a schedule of today, outnumbered lectures in almost all regions and by all communities to mark the 19th commemoration of the Israeli invasion in 1978.
- Iqlim Kharoub quarry owned by minister Walid Jumblat has been dismantled yesterday.
- Hizbullah called the government yesterday to reconsider the decision to evict the illegal occupants. The party said the decision is a government resignation of it's responsibility to tackle and resolve the displaced issue which was stipulated in the Taif agreement.
- Ansar soccer team smashed the Burj with 5-0 match at Burj Hammoud stadium. Peter Prosper send four goals into the Burj net, making himself the league's top scorer with 21 to his credit, three ahead of his rival Homentmen Wartan. Fadi Hallak scored the fifth goal.
- Nijmeh fans had to wait until the 58th minute for their international striker Moussa Houjeij to score the only goal of the match against the Homentmen at Tripoli. Nijmeh settled the second rank by beating the Homentmen.
- Safa racing match ended with 0-0 draw. The Racing will wait until the week end to know it's future in the first division.
- Three games are scheduled for today; Riyada will play with Shabab. Both are in middle of the table and Riyada will be trying hard to make the top six in order to qualify for cup in the summer. Tadamoun-Tyre will play with Homenmen at Sidon. Shabiba will play today with Salam-Zghorta. Shabiba will doom to relegation whatever the result. Salam need to go into the weekend clash with Racing, with the three points and all the confidence that a win today would give them.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
Back to Lebanon.com Local News Wire