News from Beirut March 20  1997  .......Search


The Middle East is observing a catch breath phase following Israeli bulldozers moving into Jebel Ghneim to start building a Jewish new settlement in East Jerusalem. In southern Lebanon, one Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded in an ambush yesterday by the Islamic resistance fighters in the vicinity of the Beaufort castle. According to Southern Lebanon Army militia sources, the Israeli patrol was ambushed at 2.30 p.m. on the main road to the castle. Resistance men fired Sagre rockets, RPGs and machine gun fire. Two of the soldiers were fatally wounded and airlifted by helicopters to the nearest hospital.

Simultaneously, two SLA posts at Ali Taher and Dabsheh came under artillery shelling. The Islamic resistance in Beirut said its men ambushed the patrol and hit accurately and directly an Israeli armored personnel carrier killing or wounding all its crew. The escalation of violence in the south, at a time the Middle East is boiling, evoked fear of an Israeli escalation to overshadow and turns public opinion attention to South instead the West Bank. Israeli force raided the Arnoun village overnight and investigated villagers over their connection with the resistance attack against the patrol. Four persons were released and three are still under arrest.

Today, Israeli warplanes raided Hizbullah base at Ain Zarqa, north east Lebanon near Hermel. No casualties were reported. The raid followed yesterday's ambush against an Israeli patrol where one Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded.

Council of Ministers meeting :

In its meeting, the Council of Ministers has reached the following decisions:

1-Appointment of three LU faculty deans, out of 11, and 8 others will be appointed altogether in a later decree. The three includes:

a- Assad Nadiri -Information and Documentation, close to premier Hariri.

b- Ali Faoour -newly established faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, close to Mr. Berri.

c- George Abu Jawdeh -Faculty of Fine Arts, brother of minister's Murr spouse.

The other deans include:

a- Ibrahim Kubeissi -Law and Political Science-Shiite

b- Joseph Labaki -Literature and Human Science -Maronite

c- Elias Nasrallah-Agriculture -Greek Orthodox

d- Aref Diya -Pharmacy-Shiite

e- Mohsen Jaber -Science-Sunni

f- Mohammed Shaya -Social Science-Druze

g- Bernadete Abi Saleh -Public Health-Maronite

h- Abdel Hadi Yamout -Economical Science and Business Administration-Sunni

2- Two items, including planning guidelines for Sin el Fil and Elissar in the southern suburbs, were postponed.

3- The Council approved a request by the P.T.T ministry on the installing of wireless telephone network at the rural areas.

4- The Council decided to lay down a formula on the eviction of the displaced at a coordination meeting between the Ministries of Justice, Displaced and Interior, which will be held next week. Minister of Information, Bassem Sabbaa said eviction will halt now until the meeting is held.

-Prime Minister Hariri said at the opening of the session that he is traveling to Egypt to discuss the issue of partnership between some Arab countries on the Mediterranean basin and the European Union. "Lebanon is called by the Union's commission in Belgium to sign the accord, and that prompts urgent consultation with Egypt," the Prime Minister said. He noted also that he will discuss in Cairo bilateral relations including economical issues. Mr. Hariri left to Egypt after the session was over. He was received by Egyptian counterpart Kamal Ganzouri and is scheduled to meet today with President Hosni Mubarak. Political analysts in Beirut question if the diplomatic crisis with Egypt is really due to potato exports. Zahle Deputy Elie Skaff said yesterday the crisis is rooted in Egypt and suggested that Egypt did not abide by an agreement on importing Lebanese agriculture products.

Minister of Agriculture, Shawki Fakhoury, said banning Egyptian potato imports was to protect Lebanon Akkar region's local potato product. He alleged that the trade balance deficit with Egypt is widening and Egypt is obstructing Lebanese apple exports, at time Lebanon is importing 46 different agriculture product. Egyptian Minister of Agriculture contended his country's potato exports to Lebanon is ranging from 500 to 600 tones, and the banning by Lebanon aims at making a balance with Lebanon's apple exports to his country. He mentioned that Egyptian potato exports to Europe was 430 thousand tones in 1995 and 450 thousand tones in 1996.

Mr. Nabih Berri is reportedly dismayed of the appointment of Lebanon University's deans, and was quoted as saying, "They wanted to bring me back to the troika rule system through the deans issue, but I favored to concede in the LU issue rather than to concede in the state." The lion's share of the appointments was to both President Hrawi's and Prime Minister Hariri's supporters, while Mr. Berri's share was a dean of the new faculty and some secondary faculties. South Deputy Mohammed Baydoun, close to Mr. Berri, said the appointment of deans was stemmed from the political affiliation not qualifications. He pointed out that it is the same as the appointment of Lebanon's Ambassador to USA Mohammed Shatah, who does not enjoy diplomatic qualifications, and who was the only one suggested candidate. He questioned why not the deans would not be elected by the university teachers same as in foreign countries.

Interior Ministry- Stamping Identity Form

Lebanon's Minister of Interior, in a clarifying statement appeared today, declared that the stamping of the citizens' ten fingers on the new identity card application form, is adopted by France, N.Y, Brazil, all Latin American states, Egypt and Kuwait. "It would be also adopted by the USA as of 2005," the statement read. The Ministry's statement added that the stamping aims at organizing a special number for each person which won't be doubled or changed. The statement proceeded by claiming that the European Union also recommended that future applications for identity cards should consider stamping. The Ministry said Lebanon is one of major countries posed to forging the card and the stamping was a measure to avert it.


Once again, the Lebanese in Africa, are threatened with forcible exodus, out of Zaire this time. Yesterday, a private plane has landed in South Africa with Lebanese dependents on board, evacuated from the battle zones in Zaire, after their property were looted by the Zairian combatants. Lebanon's Ambassador to South Africa, Sherbel Istifan, said more Lebanese are expected to arrive in Johansburg on March 19 on a hired plane. He added that many of those arriving claimed that the Zairian rebels are 200 Km far from Lobombash town. He asserted the South African emigration allowed the Lebanese to stay until 25th March, after which the women have to decide to go to Lebanon or return back to Zaire. Istifan said that there are 5,000 registered Lebanese in Zaire, and 300 families are living in Lobombash, mostly merchants. The Lebanese said they were afraid of Zairian regulars who looted their property before retreating to the advancing rebels. Director General of the Lebanese Emigrant Ministry Haitham Jumaa said the fear over the fate of Lebanese emigrants in Zaire is not from the rebels but from the armed groups which retreat to their regions. He alleged that the Foreign Minister has called the Lebanese Ambassador in Zaire. Calling some of the Lebanese there they said they started to evacuate their dependents to South Africa or elsewhere. He acknowledged that the three to four thousands Lebanese are mostly from South Lebanon, and the situation there is very delicate as well. He noted that the Lebanese are working in trade and diamond sectors but some of them do not have the money to evacuate out of the country.

News In Brief

- Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafic Hariri held talks in Egypt with Egyptian officials and was received by President Hosni Mubarak. News in Beirut said the potato crisis with Egypt is settled.

-Lebanon autonomous institutions including seaport, public transport, water and others are on strike today demanding government to take decision on their allowances and fringe benefits.

- Minister of Environment, Akram Shehayeb, said his ministry will not give permission to any new quarry until a ground field inquiry by the ministry experts is undertaken.

- Former Foreign Minister Fouad Butros said in an interview published today the corrupted political situation now in Lebanon would breach Hariri's dream of building a state. He alleged that he is excluding a surprise sudden blitz war by Israel but awarded instead of disturbances. "The USA view Lebanon as a part of the Middle East chess game," he said. Boutros cautioned the Arabs to what is being raised now in the USA administration, whether the stability of the gulf is ensured through peace between the Arabs and Israel, more than it is ensured if the peace talks failed. Boutros noted the ruling team in Lebanon is not qualified to help Hariri transform Lebanon to a better place.

- Raymond Edde said he congratulated President Elias Hrawi and Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on their approval to the execution of a felon on March 16th this year. He said such execution will serve as a deterrence to the act of deliberate killing. He acknowledged that he agrees that sentencing would be modified and eased if the killing is in self defense or for honor. He wanted the execution to take place at the scene of the crime or at a public square not at Roumieh prison. He noted during the mandate on Lebanon the death sentence was carried at Serail square and the criminal was left hanged from dawn to noon to be seen by the people.

- Yesterday, Cardinal Sfair received at Bkerke Chuf deputies Nabil Bustani and Wadeeh Akl as well as Byblos member of parliament Mahmoud Awwad. Bustani and Akl said, "the government's dealing with the displaced case is primitive, the state would like to save $1billion dollar necessary for their repatriation, in order to build more highways and palaces. He elaborated by saying what would be the use of reconstruction if humans are ignored and houses are not rebuilt.

- Jubran Tueini alleges that the present situation is intolerable and it is not allowed to continue as such. "There is an error in the state's dealing with the Christian community in an unacceptable way as we are on verge of the municipal elections," Tueini said. He added, "Days ago the Prime Minister, former Premier Selim Hoss and deputy Tammam Salam, held a meeting and decided the fate of Beirut, as it is a fate decided only by them, and this is unacceptable. . . . I told Cardinal Sfair the opposition will run  for the municipal election and as Christians we shall run for it one line. The Christians include General Michel Aoun and the Lebanese Forces trends, even if Samir Geagea is in prison, because the LF is present on ground and cannot be ignored. Also there is the NLP and the National Bloc. The conclusion is that there are Christians in one line and its time to stop ignoring them."

- The political analysts in Beirut questions if the "full security for full withdrawal" formula, announced by the European Union envoy Moratinos during a visit to Beirut could develop into a provisional alternative of the Madrid formula, and perhaps turns to be America's mechanism for the time being.

- President of St. Joseph University Selim Ebbou, speaking to audience at Mar Roukouz Science and Technology Center in St. Joseph occasion's ceremony, raised issues that had been always debatable among the Lebanese, but thought to be settled after the Taif agreement was concluded. Lebanon Arab identity, abolishing Confessionalism, and the relation with Syria, were the topics he had raised yesterday. He contended that there is in fact an ideological manipulation which aims at blacking out a Lebanese era which came before the Arabs, a sort of attempted plan to deprive the nation its special personality and to dissolve it in an overwhelming Arab nation. He said what is going on in Lebanon, including silencing the opposition, deterring demonstrations, illegal arrests, state control of the media and censorship on the press, all are killing democracy.

- After his first meeting so far with Minister of Information, Bassem Sabbaa, US Ambassador Richard Jones, said he wishes Lebanon to apply its great tradition of free expression and information.

- Minister of Information, after a meeting with Lebanon's Journalists Association's President, Melhem Karam, announced that private stations which continue to broadcast banned political news and programmes, counting on the openness of the ministry and the government, are intentionally breaking law, a serious matter that threatens the flexible democracy. He added that he does not want to take severe measures against them but the law should be respected.

- American Anglican Church officials headed by Edmond Browning met Cardinal Sfair, head of the Shiite Supreme Council Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine and Foreign Minister Boueiz. They discussed peace issues and Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Lebanon forthcoming municipal elections

-The National Bloc party called party members to a massive participation in the forthcoming elections contrary to the stand taken on 1992 and 1996 parliamentary elections.

- The Gathering for Lebanon-France, loyal to General Michel Aoun, said that the Lebanese missions abroad called upon the Lebanese to proceed and authorize relatives or others in Lebanon to obtain their election card. They said, "after proceeding to those missions people realized that the call was one of the series of  lies by the government to gain time." The Gathering clarified that the authorization allows delivering the card but not voting which should be in person. The Gathering urged all authorities and groups to persist to allow the emigrant their basic right as Lebanese citizens to participate in the forthcoming elections.

- Lebanon and Cyprus signed a judicial agreement aimed at transferring prisoners and putting legal sentences in both countries into effect.

- Political sources in Beirut think that the return of the exiled General Michel Aoun is now linked to the judiciary conclusion on his financial file.

- UNRWA's director general held three hour meeting in Ain Helwe Camp in Sidon with the camp officials and popular committees. He said he formulated a joint memo with the UNRWA sections which will be referred to the European Union and donor countries, briefing them about the hard living conditions of the Palestinian refugees, and noting that in case of no response to their appeals, there will be violence against those in charge of their case.

- Minister of Economy Yassin Jaber reviewed with the Canadian Ambassador the economic bilateral relations and the preparations for Prime Minister's visit to Canada next month.

- Saudi travel agents discussed with director general of the Lebanese tourism ministry the ways to promote tourism between the two countries and the facilities that should be given to the Saudis coming to Lebanon.

- Lebanon Labor Union's president Elias Abu Rizk is to leave today to Geneva to attend the World Labor Organization's meeting.

- The international environment watchdog Greenpeace, in an appeal to Lebanese industrialists, said the Chekka cement factory, also Sibline, Mimoza paper product factory in Bekaa and leather industry, are pollution spots in Lebanon. Greenpeace official Fuad Hamdan said Lebanon's industry is producing more than 326 thousand tones annually of industrial wastes.

- UNESCO delegation visited the southern town of Tyre to check its archeological sites and ways to promote tourism and renovate preserve its historical heritage.


-Lebanon's national football team lost to UAE yesterday 1-2 at a friendly match in the UAE, in preparation for the preliminary qualifying game for the world cup in France in 1998. The Lebanese team will be back today in Beirut.

Lebanon basketball championship-11th stage

Riyadi-Beit Meri defeated Ihyaa Riyada at Kahraba 76-66.

Tadamoun-Zouk defeated Shabab -Ghobeiri 103-79.

Basketball table at 10th stage

-Tadamoun 25

-Riyadi 24

-Antranik 23

-Hikmeh 22

-Shabab Riyadi 22

-Ihyaa Riyada 20

-Kahraba 20

-Beit Meri16

-Anibale 16

-Abnaa Neptun 16

-Wardieh 12

-Mont La Salle 12

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