News from Beirut March 21  1997  .......Search


Lebanon prime minister's brief visit to Cairo March 20 said to have sorted out the reported tension on agricultural product exports. Mr Hariri said the two countries are heading toward more cooperation and the relation with Egypt is more deeper than the issue of potato and apple. He said that before his arrival to Cairo his Egyptian counterpart told him he settled the issue of Lebanese apple exports, and it is "shameful" to speak on that case.

Hariri said he was briefed by president Mubarak on the outcome of his visit to Washington in particular, and both sides view see Israel's extreme stands will lead to destroy the peace process. He also said that the Europeans have no new concept on the peace process and they did not make new proposals to regenerate it, despite the good wills of envoy Moratinos.

Egyptian premier Kamal Ganzouri said his country would like to see trade with Lebanon, and other Arab countries, more than the present trade exchange size, and noted that the inter Arab trade is less than ten per cent. Lebanon agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury said the agreement reached with Egypt allows to resume 10,500 tonne apple exports to Egypt, and Lebanon will allow entry of 4,000 tonne potato already shipped to Lebanon before the banning was decided.

Sources close to Mr Hariri said Fakhoury's repeated stands on the potato issue dismayed the prime minister who thinks that the potato issue is minor, in view of the relation between Lebanon and the biggest Arab country Egypt. He was quoted saying why Fakhoury speaks on reciprocity at time Lebanon's imports, worth of $4bn, from Europe are not questionable, and exports to entire Europe is almost not worthy.

Political analysts in Beirut said any country, that is capable to carry on it's own decisions and protect it's product, should be free and sovereign with it's borders under control. It noted that the Lebanese government decided to ban agriculture products as of Oct and encouraged industrial exports, but Lebanon cultivators are not confident the decision will be carried, because everything in Lebanon turns political or besieged and after all become fragile. They added that any state incapable of monitoring it's open borders in land, sea, or air will not be able to protect it's cultivators neither to prevent smuggling from another capable stronger country.

Prime minister Hariri is due to leave tomorrow to Pakistan to participate in an extraordinary summit of the Islamic Conference Organisation ICO under the motto of preparing the Islamic world for the 21st century. The sumitt will be held on Sunday, which marks the 50th state anniversary of the hosting country. It will last one day and issue Islam Abad declaration. Mr Hariri is to meet Pakistan counterpart before his return on Monday.

Lebanon-EU- Partnership

Lebanon's signing a partnership agreement with the European Union was one of the main topics discussed in Cairo by Premier Rafic Hariri. The EU called Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan to sign it before Barcelona-2 conference next month in Malta. Jordan is ready to sign soon, but Lebanon wanted to have consultation with Egypt in prior. Reports said Lebanon is not going to conclude the agreement in short notice, due to it's impacts on the trade exchanges and free enterprises among many others. The impacts would affect largely Lebanon state revenue's backbone which is the custom duties, and prompts the modification of charges through new legislations. Lebanon, in bid to rise up ceiling of it's demands to receive as much possible aid from Europe, is proposing that preparatory time for establishing the partnership should be 10 to 15 year.

Some sources in Beirut see Lebanon, in a long run, would be a beneficent of the partnership if economical sectors, which have competitive capability allowing it to head off to larger markets without barriers, could adapt with the requirements set by the partnership agreement. Example on that is when Lebanon wants to export an agriculture product it should comply with required criteria such as fertilizers and seeds etc. The conclusion is that the partnership is a loss at the beginning but a beneficent one by time.


Israel's radio said the Israeli warplanes' raid yesterday against Hizbullah camp along the Assi river course, east of Hermel on the outskirts of north Bekaa, was a retaliation to the killing of an Israeli soldier and wounding three others, near the Beaufort castle a day before. The camp was a site for scouts activity, sports and lectures, Hizbullah said. No casualties were reported but the raid was second on the Assi banks in five years.

The Lebanese village Houla residents are campaigning in Beirut to lift the siege imposed by Israel on their village. They visited the Muslim Shiite religious leaders, foreign ministry, ICRC, South Council and High Relief Committee asking intervention to lift siege.

19 Lebanese visited yesterday the Khiam prison where they met 12 of their relatives and beloved, The ICRC has arranged the visit.

Constitutional Council- Impeachment

Lebanon Constitutional Council is close to give it's final ruling on the impeachments presented by loosers in the last year parliamentary elections. Questions raised now on whether the council would ask reelection at some constituencies, and if so, would it be possible to hold the provisional elections within the constitution's timelimit of two months. Further questioning is whether the provisional elections after the two months would coincide with the date for the Pope's visit to Lebanon, and coincide with the date set for the municipal elections. Also the question whether the municipal elections will come before or after the provisional elections of  impeached seats. The Council, which so far could not review the huge number of parliamentary elections records in each governorate and Caza, is expected to begin a countdown in 10 days, afterwhich it has to give it's final ruling.

News In Brief

- Ambassador of Japan in Cairo, commenting on prime minister Hariri's remark that Red Army members are to be tried in Lebanon, said "the Japanese respect the Lebanese law, for that they let the case of Red Army detainees to the Lebanese authority. He said his government demand the Lebanese side to hand them over after they serve sentences if they are still alive. He said handing them is a political not legal case.

- Foreign minister Fares Boueiz is to leave next monday to Paris from where he will go to Rabat-Morocco heading Lebanon's delegation to the Jerusalem committee meeting. King Hassan of Morocco has called for the meeting to discuss developments related to the holy town such as restrictions on it's Arab residents and building more Jewish settlements. Lebanon's delegation will go afterwards to Cairo to attend the Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League.

- In a response to a letter from the Council of Lebanese American Organisations, the US state department said it is regularly raising the human rights issue with the governments of Lebanon and Syria and on high levels. "We shall continue our work on the issue and our report on human rights in both countries show in detail our worry", the state department respond said.

- The Central Coordination Council (Gen. Aoun loyalists) praised the stands announced by Cardinal Sfair in Brazil, urged followers to massively participate in the forthcoming municipal elections, and to obtain rapidly their election cards in respond to an earlier call by Gen. Michel Aoun.

- Political analysts in Beirut said president Elias Hrawi and speaker Nabih Berri, who's political bickering originated from a dispute over the mayoral and municipal elections, are now, in a common denominator, against parliament MPs to run for municipal elections and have both seats of the mayor or head of municipality and the parliament seat. Many deputies are, publicly or intentionally, planning to run for the forthcoming elections.

- Emigrants minister Talal Arsalan, now in a visit to Geneva, met yesterday  the parliament speaker of the Canton of Geneva.

- Cardinal Sfair received a cable congratulating him for his safe come back from Brazil from prime minister Hariri who called him on phone from Cairo.

- Private radio station said yesterday interior minister Michel Murr is to hold today a press conference announcing extending the deadline to apply for the election card. Minister Murr's sources said the report is not correct and he will not hold any press conference. The sources said he will preside the ordinary meeting of governors and ministry's directors to discuss and review various issues.

- Evicting occupants of Mreije town in the southern suburbs to allow original residents to come back is a complicated issue. The original residents (Christians) say they won't accept to go back unless dignity is maintained under the protection from Lebanese army. They also said they do not want to be another Haret Hureik and welcoming them is not practically practiced. Hizbullah said they welcome the displaced back at their homes but it is a matter of funding not available at the displaced central fund. The central fund said it could not reach an agreement with the de facto forces there, the fund's budget for eviction is $8 mn but these forces demanded $24 mn.

- The council of ministers appointment of some LU deans evoked sharp reactions from the LU teachers who called regional general assemblies to take stands to defend the university. They said each time the officials speak on reforming the LU they double their sabotage. President Elias Hrawi is reported dismayed of the atmospheres, interventions, and stands related to the LU deans. He perhaps would not sign the appointment decree or delay it. Dr Nassif Nassar would be again the dean of literature and human science instead of the proposed Joseph Labaki. Mr Berri is also reported dissatisfied of the appointment.

- Parliament finance committee endorsed a $31 mn loan from the world bank to Lebanon Green project administration to spend it on increasing the cultivated land and some irrigation projects. The committee called the project administration to modernize and qualify it's staff in order to be able to spend such amount on all regions.

- Around 60 Lebanese ambassadors, retired or resigned, in or out of the cadre, are called today to elect their first board today. The 60 ambassadors had formed the 'Ambassador's Forum' wishing it would fill a vacuum.

- The US is going to provide assistance to Lebanon's security agencies, including devices to check forgering notes, cheques, credit cards, passports, entry visas and others, General prosecutor in Beirut Abdallah Bitar said yesterday. Bitar, with other judicial and security officials, attended a 5 day conference in Cyprus, upon invitation from the US embassy in Beirut. US experts lectured delegations from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Cyprus, on modern ways to combat forgery, crimes of economical and financial nature also drug trafficking.

- Criminal court in Beirut sentenced Ghassan Matraji, Nabih Chehabedine, and Abdel Ghani Shaaban, of five year imprisonment, for forging US dollars and attempting to circulate it in Lebanon. Three other persons were sentenced 8 years imprisonment for same charge.

- American Anglican delegation met in Beirut Bishop Elias Audeh and Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani.

- Cuban communist party delegation met at Ain Helwe camp with the camp officials and popular committees to express their solidarity.

- Sudanese parliamentary delegation met in Beirut the parliament deputy speaker Elie Firzli and MP Anwar el Khalil. The delegation are briefing Lebanese officials their country's present situation and the conspiracy by Ethipioa, Eritrea, and Uganda against Sudan.

- Judicial pardon committee endorsed a death sentence against an Egyptian national who killed a Lebanese aged couple at their village Kfar Akab in 1992. The two were beaten to death and thrown into a well.

- The Hamra shop owners association decided yesterday to keep their shops open until 10.00 p.m each Friday in order to allow Arab visitors, namely from Syria and Jordan, who's weekly holiday is Friday, to make easy and available shopping.

- Limassol Four Seasons hotel is hosting a Lebanese food festival 21th to 23rd March with the participation of three Lebanese cookers of the Casino Du Liban.

- Economy minister Yassin Jaber said he will sign contract with an international company, well qualified and equipped, to monitor all exports to Lebanon and check quality and source. He said deciding another shopping festival, each february or whole year, would not take place before regulating the trade and improving public impression toward traders. Jaber said he is seeking now to confirm certain elements, including label of product, expiration, source, and fixing prices which should not be two times the cost price, before a decision on any future shopping festival.

- Next to a proposed plan by former speaker Hussein Husseini to reorganize the judicial authority in Lebanon, MP Butros Harb is proposing additional plan aims to separate judiciary from the executive and legislative power. Both plans aim to maintain enough assurances to the citizen and get the judiciary out of the troika circle.

-The employees of the public autonomous administrations, including electricity, seaport, water, tobacco and regie, ogero and others staged a one day warning strike urging government to respond to their demands. The employees union recommended further two day strike on 26 and 27 March if the government did not respond.

- Minister of Environment Akram Shehayeb and administrative reform Beshara  Merhej announced at a joint press conference yesterday the modified new function of the environment ministry. The new function now is to survey, plan, guide, and supervise the environment policy, while executive mission is to be carried by the concerned ministries. Merhej said the environment ministry is the caretaker of Lebanon's fortune which is air, water, and nature. Minister Shehayeb said the new concept consecrates the work for environment in Lebanon.


- Prime minister Rafic Hariri hosted the Arab sports and youths ministerial committee now visiting Lebanon at a dinner at his palace in Beirut. The committee, headed by Egyptian minister for sports and youths Abdel Menem Amara, was charged on behalf of Arab ministers to check the sport facilities in Lebanon which is going to host Arab sports 8th tournament.

- Lebanon national football team returned back from Abu Dhabi. The Football federation in Lebanon announced that Asian football union has chosen Lebanon's team as First Asian team for Feb 1997, in view of the remarkable progress made by the Lebanese team, which moved it up ten points according to FIFA classification, also for the results it made during the play with Chikia 3-3,and Jordan 1-0.

- Homentmen basketball women defeated Egyptian Ahli 69-67 yesterday in Tunisia.  The Homentmen women and Riyadi are participating in the first round of the Arab union basketball 11th tournament now held in Tunisia. The two Lebanese basketball teams are now among the second group teams which will play for the semi finals.

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