Yesterday, a Jordanian army soldier shot and killed seven Israeli schoolchildren and wounded ten others, in the first violent incident on the borders between the two states since their signing of the peace treaty. This latest event is a further indication of the volatile relationship between both countries.
In its most forceful measure since the recent tensions over the building of new settlements in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Legislature advised Yasser Arafat to suspend peace talks with the Israelis until the former halts their plans. Moreover, the Legislature called on the Palestinians to resist the Israeli move.
Today, Lebanon marks a nation wide solidarity celebration with Southern Lebanon and West Bekaa, nineteen years after the 1978 Israeli invasion. It also coincides with UN Resolution 425 which was issued by the UN five days after the invasion, but still not implemented as Israel continues to occupy half of Southern Lebanon.
Yesterday, The Raouche pegeon rock had been wrapped with yellow banners. Army paratroopers and a special unit carried the mission which took 4 days with the help of a helicopter and a sea vessel.
In addition, formal and popular rallies will be held, such as the central rally at Shatila which will be attended by speaker Nabih Berri, Arab League S.G Ismat Abdel Magid, Syrian assistant S.G of the Baath party Abdallah al Ahmar and senior officials. Abdel Magid said that March 14th is not only a Lebanese commemoration, but also an Arab event.
President Elias Hrawi, on eve of the occasion, addressed the Lebanese nation and reiterated his comments at the UN "Let Israel withdraw from South and West Bekaa and we guarantee security there." He also said that the peace talks are now at a stalmate and a state of freeze.
He added that Lebanon sticks to just and comprehensive peace which guarantees simultaneous development at the Lebanese and Syrian tracks. President Hrawi continued by saying, "As we trust the American President Bill Clinton, his efforts and role, for a just comprehensive peace, we wished he, who rejected transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, not to veto UN security Council's draft resolution on Israel's settlements in east Jerusalem." He thanked the European initiative based on the formula of full withdrawal for the "prevailing" security, questioning how Israel could demand full security while we, who should demand it, are not granted that right when we are suffering from Israel's evil and violent actions.
President Hrawi went further by wondering "what is left for the world legitimacy if it surrenders to the unabated violation of the UN resolutions by Israel."
Yesterday, the 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee held its shortest meeting ever--it held 12 meetings so far--in Naqoura to discuss an Israeli complaint against a booby trapped car explosion at Houla-Markaba main road last monday. The panel only regretted the impacts of the operation.
At 7:30 P.M., the committee issued its statement, after over eight hours meeting, admitting that a car bomb exploded by a Lebanese armed group on 10th March. 1997, near an inhabited house. The blast wounded at least one person and damaged a house as well as a civilian car. The disscussions witnessed a heated debate between the Lebanese and the Israeli delegations. The Lebanese delegation advocated the resistance's right to strike the occupants, while the Israeli side rejected this argument contending that military operation close to a residential area should not take place.
Lebanon expressed dismay about the acceptance of the Israeli argument by the American and French delegations.
- An Israeli report said that 400 Israeli soldiers were standing a trial for refusing to serve their military term in the occupied Southern Lebanon. The trial of the last soldier took only one minute after he admitted he would not carry orders and that he was ready to go to jail than serving in Southern Lebanon. He was sentenced for 3 months.
- Amal movement fighters claimed that they attacked the Israeli outpost at Zimraya on the 14th of March occasion and marked direct hits. The Israeli artillery shelled the source of fire at Zilaya and Qilya.
- Yesterday, the Lebanese foreign minister Fares Boueiz said that what is going on in Kfarfalous, east of Sidon, is not a withdrawal in political terms, but a step dictated by the dificulties that the Israeli forces were encountering from the resistance operations. He added that this development was a technical move or a redeployment. In addition, he said that Israel is trying to use the monitoring committee to gradually nibble the resistance's right to attack the occupant, a tactic that is unacceptable to Lebanon.
- Yesterday, President Elias Hrawi received two Hizbullah deputies, Ibrahim Amin Sayyed and Hussein Haj Hassan. Deputy Sayyed said that there was no indication of a withdrawal from Kfarfalous, but any withdrawal from any area in Lebanon, even a tactical withdrawal, is a gain and pride to Lebanon. He added that the government should act to prevent posing civilians to danger. He said the Lebanese government should be ready any time to stand against Israeli military actions. He proceeded by contending that the monitoring committee authority is limited. He stressed that Lebanon should continue to complain to the UN Security Council.
-In view of the present Middle East confusion and the strain that might lead to security deterioration in the region, the Lebanese government is showing more enthusiasm to tackle the problems of living conditions and economy crisis as the peace process put on freeze due to the radical policies of the Israeli government.
Previous cabinets under prime minister Rafic Hariri were counting on a near peace breackthrough but the present third cabinet realised that peace is not in hand in short run. The government now relies on a new policy based on self dependence instead of loans and external monetary support. President Hrawi told his visitors that the latest decisions by the government to revive the agriculture sector is an additional step to boost all sectors. He said he who is "described as first cultivator" thinks that the new economical policy is based on an important vision and concept.
Prime minister Hariri's aides said that the government latest economic decisions are complementary to the policy of the government. It said the government already carried some of the priorities enlisted in the ministerial statement, including Friends of Lebanon forum, boosting the agriculture and industry sector, and creating incentives to investments in those sectors. According to different sources, Premier Hariri is feeling that the economy is retreating daily, and the priority given to Solidere and infrastructure projects is not sufficient. Hariri's task is to improve economy but if he fails his status would be affected as a result. Therefore, he initiated several measures to enhance his credibility.
Minister Walid Jumblat said that the claim of the government that money is not available for the displaced is an untrue pretext. He mentioned the funding of the electricity through a $100m bond issue, the L.L225m to the Lebanese university, and money obtained to fund the housing institution. He said for the displaced they claim there is no money. He argued that displaced issue is not anymore a priority to the government. He proposed that if municipal election at villages of the displaced did not come back yet, then it could be postponed and held at a later stage, in case no concensus is reached among the people in the village. He said the invented election card, thinking they live in the Geneve Canton, is of no difference with the identification document Ikhraj Kaid. Mr Jumblat said his ministry is neutral in what concerns the municipal election. Commenting on a recent government decision to evict the displaced who illegally occupy houses, by virtue of prosecution or judiciary sentences, he pledged to make contacts to rescind the decision and promising that he will not force out any family without providing an alternative. He said resolving the displaced problem should be up to his ministry. Many groups in the mountain region, as well as Chuf deputy George Dib Neemeh, denounced the government's decision on eviction.
- President Elias Hrawi wished that each national institution would carry on fully with it's obligations. He said that decentralizing the system is up to the Parliament which is currently studying the issue. He praised the monetary decisions taken by the central bank and the cabinet saying it will boost the economy in general.
- Armenia's foreign minister, who is currently visiting Lebanon after a stop in Damascus, met in Beirut with President Hrawi, prime minister and foreign minister. He said his country backs the peace process and the implementation of the UN resolution 425.
- Ex president Amin Gemayel, who boycotted the parliamentary election, is now in favour of participating in the coming municipal mayoral election. He said his stand is positive on municipal election, describing it as local one and not political or party election, thus the main focus should be on local development and public services. He said he will seek to have the minimum concensus with Kataeb party leader George Saadeh, aside of any personal disagreement.
- Cardinal Sfair is to be back at his seat at Bkerke tomorrow after two weeks tour which took him to Rome and Brazil, where he was received cheerfully by hundred thousands of Lebanese. He was keen to urge the Lebanese overseas to rise above differences and disagreements and to export to Lebanon their concensus and not to import Lebanon home's splits. He urged the Lebanese in Brazil and elsewhere to rally around Lebanon which needs their support.
-The recent Baath party's rally, held at Antelias, which commomorates the 34th anniversary of Syria's reform movement of 8th March with support of interior minister Michel Murr, is questioned over here in terms of its location and real objective. The Kesrouan deputies and representatives were absent as well as many residents of the coastal town. In an inquiry report, some welcomed the event and saw it's freedom of political action, while others withheld their stands but still marked reservation. Baath minister Ghazi Seifeddine said Antelias was not chosen to defy anybody.
- Yesterday, investigating magistrate Saeed Mirza who is dealing with five Japanese cases that involve immitating state seals and forgering passports and entry visas, listened to testimony of a second man in charge of the state security agency, Brig Ali Makki. Makki endorsed the result of the preliminary investigation he held with the Japanese. Three Japanese who were released earlier have been deported out of Lebanon yesterday and were told that they are personna non grata in Lebanon, diplomatic sources at the Japanese embassy here said. They were airlifted via London on board of MEA and from there to Tokyo. They were accompanied by members of the Japanese embassy here and in London. The Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud who is still in custody would be released next week.
- President Elias Hrawi, in his capacity to grant pardons, is now facing a dilemma of whether to sign a death sentence against three murderers, who killed Sheikh Nizar Halabi in Beirut. Some Muslim clerics asked for an appointment to urge the president to modify the sentence. Hrawi's signing of the sentence on a case of political ideological nature would be a prelude to signing other sentences of similar nature. On other hand, president Hrawi is urged to sign a death sentence, decided by the judiciary earlier, against a man who killed another at the Biddawi-Tripoli. The appeal came from the victim's family.
- Lebanese university lecturers, staging a sit in protest at the offices of the high education ministry, were called by the Minister to look positively to a decision taken by the government on March 12. The government charged the president of the LU to submitt a report listing number of lecturers of each faculty within two week time.
- The cellular telephone companies in Lebanon did not yet issue any statement on tapping the phone calls, as noted by former prime minister Selim Hoss.
- As municipal election is nearing, the interior ministry in a publicised statement, urged the voters to read the voters lists now available at the Mayors and municipalities offices, and apply within the deadline expiring at the end of March to correct their names.
- Private radio and television stations continue to defy the government decision to ban political programmes and news bulletins, despite repeated warnings by the information minister. No deterring measure has been taken so far. Political analysing say perhaps the stations are playing down on the contradictions between state officials. The stations aim to either impose a de facto situation, or to obtain licenses under pressure, or to close down for financial reasons.
- Minister of emmigrants Talal Arsalan received an invitation to visit the Ivory Coast in Africa.
- The National Syrian Socialist party continues to celebrate the 1st March anniversary of it's founder Antoine Saadeh in rallies held in Nabatieh, Byblos and Mount Lebanon.
- Finance minister Fouad Seniora said that the government and parliament are on agreement over the issue of new scales of salaries for the public sector. He said the cost of new scales was specified by his ministry but other estimations by other ministries is inaccurate. He revealed that the government is in the process to apply penalty-reward system on civil servants, adding that those who work should not be equalled with the ones who are not. He said no world economy can survive on such basis. He said the first reform step began with the Lebanese university and the second will be with the staff of the informaiton ministry.
- Former prime minister Selim Hoss said the government decision to release 40 percent of the reserve requirement rule in treasury bills will hopefully boost the national economy and help overcome the present hard recession that is prevailing in the country. He said that during the 1997 budget debate, he criticised the cease of treasury bills at state account, at the central bank, more than the state needed, as one of the reasons behind the recession. The government had earlier refused his argument but now it realised that releasing reserve is a must.
- Homenmen team is now ranked third after beating the Tadamoun-Tyre, 8th on the table, at Sidon stadium yesterday with 4-1. The Homenmen now raised its records to 48 points, with 2 points up Homentmen, placing itself at third rank, and the Homentmen at 4th rank. Homenmen is now down 4 points of Nijmeh the second, and 11 points down from Ansar who is placed champion of the soccer for the 9th consecutive time. The Tadamoun-Tyr points froze at 29.
The result of yesterday's match was natural since Tadamoun played in absence of main key players, while Homenmen played second match vigorously after Babkin joined the team.
- At Safa stadium in Beirut, Shabiba Mazraa and Salam Zghorta played a match ending with 0-0.
- Riyada wal Adab defeated the Shabab Sahel 2-1 at Tripoli stadium. Riyada is placed 6th on the table while Shabab Sahel placed 9th.
- Lebanese auto club is to hold its first sport auto race for 1997 on Sunday at Iqlim el Kharoub and Chuf. 21 cars will rally the distance of 228 kms.
- Asia Sport, the official sponsor of the Arab 8th sport tournament which is scheduled in Lebanon on 12-27 July, is to sign an advertising agreement with Pepsi and Reebock--financers of the tournament--at a press conference on 18th-19th of March.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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