News from Beirut March 17  1997  .......Search


In a joint meeting at Baabda with the Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, President Elias Hrawi reviewed some of the pressing issues in Lebanon, such as:

1-The latest developments in the region, including information on possible Israeli military action against Lebanon and ways to confront this threat.

2-The cabinet recent decisions on economy and administration, and the ways to implement them.

3-The continued strain between President Elias Hrawi and Speaker Nabih Berri, which despite extensive efforts to reconcile differences, is still present. Some believe that there are no signals of any near rapprochement as the Speaker is scheduled to visit France on 23-26 March.

- Yesterday, at a rally to lay down the cornerstone of Bassel Assad's Cultural Complex in Tyre, Speaker Nabih Berri said, "It is a right to any Lebanese, here and abroad, to share in Lebanon's political life, and by that a Lebanese empire would rise up and change much of the world situation." He added, "those who are here are afraid of those abroad, and those abroad are afraid of those here." He contended that the Jews in the USA, though a small minority, could take Palestine which was given to us by God.

Lebanon-Egypt, Potato Crisis

Egypt's Foreign Minister, Amre Mussa, speaking for first time on the issue, announced that Lebanon's banning of Egyptian potato imports would lead to undesired impacts on Lebanese-Egyptian trade relations. He added that his country would have preferred Lebanon not to take this drastic decision which will necessarily prompts taking measures by Egypt to confront it. Mussa said the Lebanese decision is not understood and Egypt is sensitive toward potato exports which is a main important agriculture cash product. He hoped Lebanon's trade policy would consider the entire aspects of the Lebanese-Egyptian relations. Mr. Mussa proceeding by noting that the trade between the two countries should be pushed ahead not to be pulled back. He pointed out, "any problem could be resolved through direct dialogue not by decisions which would lead to tension in relation." The Egyptian Ambassador in Lebanon has mounted a campaign in Beirut against the ban, warning Lebanon's Agriculture Minister, Shawki Fakhoury, of banning the imports before 15th of March, a time schedule set by Lebanon agriculture calendar.

Mr. Fakhoury, in a news dispatch, advocated the ban which was taken  in light of Lebanon's high interest. He alleges that the measure was not aimed at angering Egypt but it was designed to protect the national product. He noticed that large quantities of potato were imported for storage two weeks before Lebanon locally produced potato start to go to the market, for that reason he decided to take action. Fakhoury added that it is apparent that Minister Amre Mussa was given a wrong view on the issue and the ban has nothing to do with Lebanese-Egyptian relation. He alleges that the ban was also applied on potato imports from Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In a T.V interview yesterday,  Lebanon's Foreign Minister, Fares Boueiz, said the potato ban has some connection with Lebanon apple exports to Egypt, which is facing restrictions and obstacles in Egypt. The Egyptian workers in Lebanon send an annual remittances of $150 million to their families in Egypt and Lebanese investments in Egypt are of considerable size though they do not encourage Lebanese apple products exports. He said that the trade balance with  Egypt is greatly in its favour.


In a T.V interview yesterday, Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz said in the absence of a Lebanese army capability to liberate the South as well as the inability of the UN to implement its resolutions concerning Israeli withdrawal, Lebanon should insist and encourage the legitimate right of the resistance. He mentioned that the resistance is receiving political and financial support from both Syria and Iran and this is detrimental for the resistance. He admitted that because of the public administration's bad situation and the existing decay, the public spending on the south is less than the budget allocations for south Lebanon. He revealed that he exerted much efforts to coordinate with the resistance, for that, he went even to Damascus and Tehran, but until now he could not maintain state harmony with the resistance.

Political analysts in Beirut predict that neither total war nor complete peace are in sight. The analysts believe that Israel's unilateral withdrawal, under the resistance unabated attacks, which turned to be an undesired war of  attrition and an open wound to Israel, would achieve two Israeli goals, that is to close the wound and stop the bloodletting of Israeli soldiers. The unilateral withdrawal would lead to the suspending of the peace talks with Syria or withdrawal from Golan until further date, after separating the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.

- Deputy Speaker Elie Firzli notes, "We are on half way to liberation of our land and winning the battle of south, thanks to steadfastness of the pan Arab free thinking in Lebanon and the wise and steady administration of the battle by President Hafez Assad." Firzli, speaking during the 14th March commemoration at Bidnayel in Bekaa, pointed out that the mother battle is to drop down the farm-like state in Lebanon as a mean to win the south battle. He added that what comes after implementing UN Resolution 425 is the battle of resenting and fighting normalization of relations with Israel.

- Recent reports today said the Islamic resistance launched a series of attacks against the Israeli and Southern Lebanon Army outposts, namely Ali Taher post overlooking Nabatieh. The Israeli forces combed the hideouts of resistance in various sectors by machine-gun fire. The Beit Yahoun crossing is still closed.

Israeli navy intercepted and searched a vessel with around 300 cars on board sailing to Tyre. The vessel, coming from Hamburg-Germany, was allowed to sail to the port after five hour seizure. News reports in Beirut said the SLA 3Km pull back from Kfarfalous to Roum in the Jezzine area is a measure aimed to averting the front line fire. It is a diminishing of force and not a withdrawal, and it should not have such predicted and exaggerated impacts in Beirut, because Jezzine residents themselves show carelessness toward the move.


Italy's Prime Minister, now in Damascus in an official visit, is due to arrive in Beirut tomorrow in such a first visit by an Italian Prime Minister to Lebanon. The visit aims at discussing the Middle East peace process and stands of  the two countries on the stumbled peace talks, as well as enhancing bilateral relations. Lebanon and Italy have good relations since 1992, when the two countries signed a $460 million economic cooperation protocol, but hardships and obstacles during the past two years, undermined the right application of the protocol. The Italian Prime Minister's visit came after an invitation extended to him by his Lebanese counterpart during the latter visit to Rome last May after the Israeli blitz.

Mayoral and Municipal Election

Minister of Emigrants, Talal Arsalan, called the government to extend the deadline-set at the end of March-for obtaining election cards. He proposed that  the head of the municipal council be elected by the elected municipality council and not directly by the public.

Minister of Interior, Michel Murr, emphasized the need for consensus in the coming municipal election, namely in the villages and towns of north Metn. He said that members of Parliament are not the only ones responsible for the public services, but the mayors and municipal councils as well will have their role in the development of  various regions in Lebanon. The Minister added that he will exercise total neutrality in the coming election and that should not be regarded as an abandonment on his part towards his allies and friends.

Former Speaker, Hussei Husseini, said yesterday that the balanced development would be realized if the municipal and mayoral councils are regenerated and vitalized. He contended that giving the Lebanese citizens the right and chance to share in running local affair would complete the executive pyramid, which ends at the president and parliament. The former Speaker noted that the Parliament should not remain short of the base of the pyramid which give it efficiency to carry on its role.

Minister of Culture and High Education, Fawzi Hubeich, said the election will be held on schedule and if coalitions in the towns and villages are not possible let it be a democratic battle.

Opposition member of Parliament Najah Wakim, in another harsh attack against the government, said the political power now in office is an occupation like. Accusing some of those in office of collaborating with Israel, he called for revolution and change, and campaigned against those who turned the 14th March into a folkloric and comic party. Mr. Wakim contended that these officials ignore the citizens the entire year and want them to share only in one day. Wakim said what had been done in the economy was not haphazard or mistake but a deliberate policy aiming at destroying state institutions, humiliating the people, and the circumscribing of freedoms. Wakim added that we should not believe that the agent and the thief are the state of Lebanon. He said the simple Lebanese is suffering from school tuition fees and electricity bills, but knows nothing about the Raafat Suleiman and how they killed the witnesses in his case, also know nothing about the Red Army case. He said the opposition should be a resistance because those in power are an occupation, in addition to being a corrupted administration.

Zahle deputy Elie Skaff, coming from a trip abroad, said the coming municipal election is an opportunity to the intellectual youths and their qualification. He acknowledges that the election is a start of an all over development of Lebanon.

South Deputy Mohammed Baydoun said cooperation between AMAL and Hizbullah in the coming municipal election is not a confiscation of the public decision. He pointed out that the election is not an opportunity for political fanaticism, splits, and hostility.

Cardinal Sfair

-Cardinal Sfair, in the first sermon after his return back from his trip to Rome and Brazil, affirmed that no peace, stability, and comfort, could prevail without justice. He asserted that it is an obligation that the rich, individual or institution, state or group should exercise mercy. The Cardinal has received two phone calls from President Hrawi and former Premier Selim Hoss to congratulate him on his safe return.

- The Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops' Council, in series of visits to state officials, are placing over three proposed draft bills. The bills include exempting Church property of some charges and taxes as the Muslim Awkaf property. Another bill calls for the conversion to other religion for the sake of obtaining divorce. The proposed draft also stipulates that if one of the married couple converted to another religion, then the marriage and the relevant civil affairs continue to be subject to the laws under which the marriage was concluded. If the two couple both converted to another religion their marriage and relevant civil status issues become subject to their new community law as of the date of conversion not prior.

News In Brief

- Former Deputy of North Fathi Yakan denounced the violent attacks against the Copts, Muslims or foreigners, especially in Egypt and Algiers. He said those who carry the attacks under the banner of Islam are in fact harming the religion with such practices and that the beneficiary of these actions is Israel. Yakan called for stripping those groups from the Islamic faith.

- Lebanon's Minister of Finance, Fouad Seniora, left to Germany yesterday to sign agreements on encouraging investments in Lebanon and to prevent double taxation. The five days visit to Germany aims as well at enhancing bilateral relations.

- Lebanon's Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani is to issue a statement banning use of the Adha celebration for advertising night clubs and festivities which harm the image of Islam. He would call the state security agencies to maintain ethical celebrations which conforms with the values of Islam. Similar Fatwa was issued during the month of Ramadan.

- At a meeting held yesterday, the Kataeb opposition at Ashrafieh reviewed the drastic situation within the party, saying that party leader George Saadeh is isolated since 1986 and now he is announcing fake inter-party conciliation. The conferees hoped the coming municipal election would avert political stagnation so that the result would express the citizens' view of a bright future for Beirut.

- Seminars and rallies were held yesterday on the 20th commemoration of the PSP founder Kamal Jumblat, namely in Chuf and Aley. Mass commemorations were held at Mukhtara, where Party Leader and Minister, Walid Jumblat, party officials and crowds placed flowers on the tomb. Jumblat, addressing the crowd, said the Syrian presence in Lebanon is now once again under campaigns casting doubts with the pretexts of sovereignty, unbalance etc. He asserted the blood of Kamal Jumblat and other martyrs were for the national unity which is now gradually realized by the repatriation of the displaced. A delegation from the Russian Embassy handed Mr. Jumblat a letter from Russia's Foreign Minister, Primakov, expressing sympathy and extending condolences for the occasion. At Mazraat Chuf Church, a sermon was held to commemorate the victims of 16th March.

- Minister of Transport, Omar Miskawi, said he supports the call of Hizbullah deputy Abdallah Kassir to expel the US Ambassador from Lebanon. He contended that the Ambassador is expressing his country's views but he should know he is speaking in Lebanon not Israel.

- Minister of Education, Jean Obeid, received today in Beirut his Syrian counterpart to discuss educational cooperation between the two countries.

- French Ambassador Jean Pierre Lavn is hosted at Hermel where he met the region's clans and families. He also met the Maronite Bishop in Baalbeck and Deir el Ahmar. The Ambassador noted that last year peril's understanding did not end the state of war though it had put an end to Israeli aggressions.

- Tripoli-based Islamic Unification Movement official Sheikh Saeed Shaaban urged  President Elias Hrawi to hold the execution of a death sentence against the murderers of Sheikh Nizar Halabi. He said the Islamic projects association-Ahbash, to which Halabi belonged to, is destroying Lebanon under the pretext it supports Syria and Lebanon. He added that the association should be blamed and should have been punished because that inaction had led to the murder of Halabi. He appealed to President to halt the execution to avoid turning Lebanon into another Algiers.

- Beirut Maronite Bishop, Boulos Mattar, established the second floor of Mar Sherbel-Fanar Church. He called upon the government to work efficiently for the repatriation of the displaced as well as to annul its recent decision to evict displaced under rulings of the courts.

- The five Japanese Red Army members, now at their jail in Roumieh, quoted as saying in a press interview that they will commit suicide inside their prison cells in an attempt to protect their comrades if the Lebanese government decided to hand them over to Japan.


- Lebanon's football championship for 1996-1997, the 37th, ended yesterday, with Al Ansar placed as the champion for the 9th consecutive time. Al Ansar defeated Homenmen in a match played yesterday at Sidon stadium with 2-0, at the end of the last 26th stage. Al Ansar player Peter prosper was crowned top soccer player of the round with 22 goals, compared to Wartan of the Homentmen scoring 19, and Rimond Najm of the Homenmen scoring 14. The Salam-Zghorta and Shabiba-Mazraa dropped to second rank, and Al Ahli-Sidon and Al Ahd advanced to first rank.

- Salam-Zghorta scored 2 goals each at a match. Al Ansar defeated Homenmen 2-0; Safaa defeated Riyada Wal Adab 1-0, and Burj won over Shabiba -Mazraa 3-1.

- In a statement yesterday, Al Ansar club announced that its chairman Selim Diyab did not participate in the coronation of the club as champion of Lebanon at Sidon stadium because the football union banned Ansar player David Nakad to enter to the stadium to observe the match between Ansar and Homenmen.

More news from International Agencies

[ Weekly Business Reports ]

Back to Local News Wire

© 1995-1997 Interactive- USA ,
All Rights Reserved.

For any comments or questions please e-mail