Yesterday, during a 24-hours visit to Beirut, Italian Premier Romano Prodi, advised the Lebanese government not to be dependent only on external aid "which definitely cannot be a substitute, with the world circumstances, to the real strength behind any civil achievement by the state basic institutions."
Mr. Prodi, who arrived from Damascus heading a delegation of Italian businessmen, held talks in Beirut with senior officials before leaving back to Rome. His discussions centered on the European/Mediterranean partnership agreement, the peace process in the Middle East, and further Italian investments in Lebanon. The agreement aimed at forging closer economic relations and political links with the 15 member states of the European Union and the 12 members of the Mediterranean basin under the framework of the 1995 Barcelona conference. The European Union pledged during Washington Friends of Lebanon's forum an aid package of ECU100 million ($88.4 million), an increase of ECU20 million from the original offer, though the Lebanese government contends that the offer is insufficient.
Italy is the leading exporter to Lebanon. In 1996, it exported about $1bn worth of goods and imported little more than $25 million. Prodi pledged to continue the efforts to help Lebanon with the reconstruction process. He did not forget the arrival of a Papal delegation in Lebanon arranging for the Pope's visit. He said the Pope's decision to visit Lebanon proves how strong is the need for such a measure. He added he is a Christian and he is interested in the existence of Christian community in Lebanon.
He told the Lebanese not to concede their rights but at the same time to be open to any positive developments in the peace process. Prime Minister Hariri announced that "two agreements on extending Italian aid to Lebanon through specific projects are under preparation." Surprisingly, Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz was almost excluded from the talks held with three senior officials, namely from the broad meeting held at the government house at Sanayeh. Political analysts in Beirut believe that Prodi's visit was of little politics by a great trade partner. The Lebanese officials raised with him Italy's restricting work permits for the Lebanese community in Italy as well as restricting the practice of the Lebanese physicians there, and reserving the establishing of companies in Italy by the Lebanese entrepreneurs claiming that there are Lebanese laws which breach the reciprocity.
Lebanon's Prime Minister will leave today to Egypt in a 24 hour urgent visit after the Council of Ministers' meeting today. The visit was decided urgently after a harsh statement by the Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Mussa on potato exports to Lebanon, now creating a diplomatic-economical crisis between the two countries. Mr. Hariri will discuss in Egypt the trading in agriculture products and the potato exports. He is expected to meet with President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Hariri is then scheduled to leave to Pakistan to attend the Islamic Organization Conference's meeting.
Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss is quoted as saying yesterday that his effort to form a coalition ticket for the forthcoming municipal elections are intended to keep the poll away from political influences. Mr. Hoss believes the poll will take place on time. Mr. Hoss also noted that he had agreed, with Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and Beirut Deputy Tammam Salam earlier this month on, to cancel plans to expand the powers of the governor at the expanse of the elected municipal council. They also agreed to come out with a coalition ticket in Beirut that represents all the capital's communities.
The Minister of Interior's decision to adopt stamping by ten fingers on the new identity card was denounced yesterday by some politicians and law-makers. Former Speaker Hussein Husseini said such a measure is harmful to human dignity, and that it should have been stipulated in a law or legislation. He asked the government to clear to the public what basis, rule, or law stipulation it had adopted.
One opposition figure, Albert Mukheiber, said he is against the stamping because it is a reminder of the police rule system. President of the Lawyers Bar Association Shakib Kirtbawi noted that the stamping was a surprise because usually it is an alternative to signature for the illiterates. He said the Ministry of Interior should explain why the stamping was adopted and it should justify it. Former Deputy August Bakhous and present Deputy Shaker Abu Suleiman said stamping is not shameful, as President Hrawi was among the first to stamp on his identity card, and it is justified if it prevents forgery.
At a meeting yesterday, the Speaker's Parliamentary Bloc for Liberation and Development called all Lebanese in all regions to obtain the election card and participate intensively in the coming poll. It added that the municipal election is a chance to revive the people's trust in its local authority. The Bloc also urged the citizens to seek to have coalition tickets.
President Elias Hrawi told visitors yesterday that the municipal elections will definitely be held on time, and if the modified municipal election law is facing obstacles at the parliament committees, the elections could be held in accordance to the old law issued in 1977.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is quoted as telling visitors yesterday that the municipal elections will definitely take place on time. Beirut Deputy Jo Khadarian said the parliament will hold a session on April 2 and 3 to discuss the changes introduced to the current law on municipalities and to examine the draft law regulating the practice of engineering. Two main points in the law are to be clarified; first if the members of parliament are allowed to run for the municipal elections; and whether the president of the municipality and his deputy could be elected directly by the voters or be elected by members of the elected council, as stated in the present law. Other modifications include giving salary to the president of the municipality.
Minister Walid Jumblat, after a visit to the NSSP party leadership's office yesterday, said the alliance with the NSSP is in effect and there will be coordination on the municipal elections.
Sidon Deputy Mustafa Saad, in a clear cut stand, rejected a speculated coalition ticket with Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in their hometown of Sidon in the coming municipal elections. He said, "there is no way to retreat from our national political stand or concede it." He added that he had timid experiences with Hariri in 1992 and 1996.
Preparations are underway for the municipal elections in Baalbeck. Hizbullah, and final stand will be announced by the end of March. AMAL official in the town said they favored taking more time for the elections, but they have an almost agreement with Hizbullah to run the elections together. He admitted that the elections now would bring opposition figures because the three top officials could not get enough time to buttress popular support.
May Kahaleh, an Information Adviser to President Hrawi, is to run the election for Sin El Fil municipal council.
In a recent published poll, some 71.8 per cent of the Lebanese want to participate in the municipal elections but 54 per cent do not know the deadline to obtain the election card. The result of this poll instigated officials to change their marketing policy on election card.
After a meeting yesterday with Cardinal Sfair, Christian opposition leader Doury Chamoun, criticized the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon, describing it as stamp of approval of the unjust situation in Lebanon. He asserted, "We want the government receiving the Pope to be genuinely concerned with the situation of the Christians in the country. I consider the Pope's visit unrealistic." He also alleged the visit will be regarded as support to the present situation and it should await an improvement in the political situation. Chamoun called the Lebanese to take part in the coming municipal election saying the vote does not necessarily means approval of the political system.
In solidarity with Japanese Red Army member Kozo Okamoto, 21 speakers representing Lebanon's national and Islamic parties and groups, called the three top officials to grant him political asylum and to allow him to live in Lebanon. Okamoto was described by the speakers as an honest struggler for the Arab cause. A joint follow up committee has been formed to visit him at prison. The solidarity meeting was held at Hizbullah central information office at Haret Hreik yesterday. Hizbullah political bureau member Abu Saeed Khansa called upon the Lebanese authorities to immediately release Mr. Okamoto and to grant him asylum in order to go out of the scandal of arresting him, a shameful sign in Lebanon's political history.
The conferees hailed the Jordanian soldier who carried the Bakoura operation along the Jordanian border with Israel killing school girls. Hizbullah Vice President of the Political Council Mahmoud Qmati said some officials in Lebanon are doing favour to Israel by arresting Okamoto.
Japan's Ambassador in Lebanon, in a press interview, said he is confident Lebanon is not anymore a shelter for such people like the Red Army. He also added that his government stands firm on the necessity to deliver those terrorists, and that the Lebanese should realize the actions carried by the Red Army. He asserted that what Okamoto has done is regarded as shameful action according to the Japanese laws. The ambassador said the case will not affect the programmes of his government to extend aid to Lebanon. The Lebanese lawyer Hani Suleiman said yesterday ten more lawyers had volunteered to defend Mr. Okamoto.
Last week, Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss asked the government to clarify reports that alleged that a government agency will shortly receive advanced equipments costing millions of dollars to monitor cellular conversations. Prime minister Rafic Hariri, who also holds the portfolio of P.T.T, did not make any comment. The two companies Cellis and Libancel, both running the cellular network advertised in many dailies here, denied any involvement in plans to tap the cellular. The ads also denied that several Cellis employees threatened with dismissal for allowing cellular lines to be tapped. Yesterday, several members of parliament acknowledged that the parliament should handle the case; Speaker Nabih Berri has adopted Hoss's stand on the issue. They said the government should answer to the question at first debate on the first week of April.
At its weekly session today, the Lebanese government is expected to appoint ten deans of the Lebanese university after a month and half delay. The delay was due to political maneuvering and disputes among top officials. Sources close to Speaker Berri said the dispute is over after all sides agreed to establish a new faculty of tourism and hotel management, headed by a Shiite dean. It was a compromise to reach a sectarian balance in the distribution of positions among sects. The current distribution of the 13 deans is as follows: Four Maronites, three Sunnis, two Shiites, two Greek Orthodox, two Greek Catholics, and one Druze. The terms of three deans have not yet expired.
- Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, in a directive issued yesterday, instructed all government offices to improve their interaction with the public within three months. The directive specifies that citizens should be informed cordially of the procedures, a telephone in the waiting room is to be provided, waiting rooms were ordered to contain a record of complaints and requests.
- Minister of Finance Fouad Seniora signed yesterday in Frankfurt an agreement to increase trade and encourage German investments, as well as to speed up the processing of Lebanese exports to Germany.
- Yesterday, UNESCO and the Ministry of Vocational and Technical Training signed a cooperation agreement that aims at rehabilitating technical and vocational training institutions.
- A decision on media licenses is to be delivered early next month by the higher council for audio-visual media, a plea delivered by its Chairman Sami Shaar yesterday. Shaar, after a visit to President Hrawi, denied that the council is awaiting a technical report on the maximum number of stations and frequencies capable of covering the country without overlap. He said the ten man council received the applications between February 12 and 19 and will produce their findings after the 45 days. Minister of Information Bassem Sabbaa said after a meeting with President Hrawi that political and media realities forced a reconsideration of the applications.
- UNRWA's relation with the Palestinians in Lebanon is expected to deteriorate further after the agency's officials decided a $1million budget cut for its office in Lebanon. The decrease was due to refusal of the donors to meet their commitments in 1996, which totaled $312 million. Contrary to other hosting countries, the UNRWA in Lebanon gave the Palestinian refugees many assurances, without real foundations, to improve services, something that would lead to further strain in relation. The Palestinian refugees health and social situation is constantly deteriorating in Lebanon.
- The CIA probes Lebanese-American businessman Roger Tamraz' links with President Clinton administration. The White House dealings with Tamraz, who is wanted in Beirut, is now under investigation. The CIA is investigating into whether the DNC had made improper contacts and inquiries with the agency personnel on behalf of Tamraz, who is also a democratic campaign donor. Tamraz had attended several White House functions at which President Clinton was present in 1995 and 1996. Such events, are fueling a controversy over questionable fundraising that has caused serious embarrassment to the White House.
- Beshara Merhej, the State's Minister for Administrative Reform in charge of modernizing Lebanon's bureaucratic administration, said he recently realized that progress is slow.
-Lebanon's national football team is to play today a friendly match with UAE at Abu Dhabi at 5.00 p.m. The Lebanese players look like they are in a very good shape and ready for their first match abroad with their team. Coach Yurath said this friendly match would be the strongest out of series of matches preparing for the match with Singapore at Burj Hammoud stadium on April 13th, and later with Kuwait on May 18th in Kuwait. The match was designed to be broadcasted live on satellite from Abu Dhabi, but it coincided with a satellite coverage of the Defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
- Lebanon was chosen as the host of the Asian football clubs finals in May after it was chosen earlier as host of the Asian cup 2000.
- Al Ansar/Nijmeh final match for Lebanon's football cup is to be held Sunday March 23rd at Tripoli stadium without audience and fans. Only 25 from each club will be allowed to enter the ground. The match will be broadcasted live on the Future T.V station. This decision was aimed at averting possible fighting from breaking out.
- Ihyaa Zouk defeated Anibale Zahle 90-65
- Abnaa Neptune lost at home 73-74 to Kahraba
- Shabab lost to Riyadi Beit Meri 65-71
- Mont La Salle lost at home to Wardieh 65-69
- Riyadi Beirut overcame Morooj from Libya 80-58 in the Arab club championship competition in Nabel-Tunisia. Hikmeh, another Lebanese team to the competition lost to Aizahra from Tunisia 68-79. Homentmen women lost to Safkassi Tunisia 47-48.
- Today, Shabiba Bawshriya is to meet Riyadi Ghazir in the volleyball first division final play off.
- In the semis Shabiba defeated Hanibal Nahr Ibrahim at Mont La Salle 2-0.
- Riyadi Ghazir defeated Russul-Jounieh 2-0
- Today, President Elias Hrawi reaffirmed once again that the forthcoming municipal elections will be held on time. He was quoted as saying that Lebanon's political system is incomplete unless the elections takes place.
-US Ambassador Richard Jones said he does not expect the situation in the West Bank to have repercussions on Lebanon.
- Lebanon's Council of Ministers' session at the government house at Sanayeh today at 5.00 p.m. (LT) would discuss the appointments of the Lebanese university LU deans, also an earlier decision it had taken to evict displaced in accordance with court and prosecution rulings. On the top of the agenda today is a review of a decree on the planning scheme of Sin El Fil, and a guidance scheme for Elissar on the southern suburbs of Beirut.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
Back to Lebanon.com Local News Wire