News from Beirut March 22  1997  .......Search

M.E. - Lebanon

Tel Aviv suicide bomb, first in a year, in an outdoor cafe filled with merrymakers at the Jewish holiday of Purim, killing three people and wounding 47, renewed the political contacts between Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat, . Most of the western countries, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian authority condemned the bombing.

In Lebanon, information minister Bassem Sabbaa outlined the Lebanese government official stand yesterday. He said "the entire M.E region with it's peoples, are paying the cost for the arrogant policies of the Israeli government. Those policies have transformed the atmospheres of peace process and climates of dialogue and negotiation into atmospheres of escalation, tension and aggression." Minister Sabbaa went on saying "Lebanon had previously warned of the serious impacts of the Israeli policy, and specifically noted that the vicious circle of violence is useless and won't push the peace process one step ahead. Israel's government and it's premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not stop even one day since assuming his office, to encounter the peace process and undermine the achievements being made. This event should urge the peace process' sponsors to move quickly and give a new momentum to it, after Netanyahu pulled it to the brink of collapse. The USA is concerned, before others, to take that move, and consequently concerned of halting anything that escalate tension in the region and curb further Israeli policies".

Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri, in a departure from his often-stated view that war in the M.E was unlikely, quoted saying yesterday a major confrontation in the region is possible. Mr Hariri, speaking to Egyptian media, said Israel is responsible for the deterioration we are witnessing, and Benjamin Netanyahu's escalatory steps, namely the building of the new settlement caused freeze of the peace process. He said a blow up in the region is possible and both the Palestinians and Israelis will pay for it. He said it is incorrect to think that the European role is a substitute to that of the USA and it is only a complementary one.

Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine lashed out yesterday at the ceasefire monitoring committee saying it did not provide security for the south people. He criticised the UN Security Council, who had turned into a US tool serving it's interests not the world in large. He concluded saying the ceasefire committee is absolutely useless. Shamseddine said the latest US veto against a draft resolution at UN is another evidence that the UN Security Council has become a department of the USA's administration. He added that the west is suffering from an ethics problem. The Lebanese Houla village is under siege while the UN and other international organisations are busy defending the rights of dogs and whales calling people not to wear fur. He assailed Arab intellectuals, who held dialogue with the Israeli  intellectuals in Copenghagen recently, saying "May God damn them for their shameful act". He argued how they could forget the massacres in Palestine and south Lebanon.

Political analysts in Beirut said an outrage of violence in the M.E would threatens the last year April's understanding on south Lebanon. The Lebanese remember now a warning by French foreign minister De Charette, during his recent visit to Beirut, saying the eruption of violence in south Lebanon is possible due to the freeze of the peace process. The April's understanding will mark it's first year next month, without making a drastic change there, though relatively limited the cycle of violence. The analysts says a collapse of the peace process would announce itself in south Lebanon, the ground field which drew regional major root changes in 1993 and 1996.

Mayoral and Municipal elections

Lebanon's parliament is to debate april 2 and 3 amendments of the municipal election law. As the deadline for obtaining election cards is nearing, the interior ministry so far reiterates that end of  March is a definite deadline date. Interior minister Michel Murr announced yesterday that half  a million Lebanese voters did apply for the cards from 1 to 20th March, and if the number of applications reach 800 thousand by the end of March, representing 80 per cent of the number of voters according to an est in 1996, then his ministry will decide if it will extend deadline. The minister's remark stems he might extend the deadline. Mr Murr said at a press conference held yesterday he would assign temporarily 170 mayors in various regions in Lebanon, wherever the mayor's post is vacant, to do the work until the date of elections. Murr said he instructed the delivery of application forms for the identity cards and the charge is only  LL 5,000. He said he asked the governors and the Qaimmaqams to coordinate with the police Darak to choose locations of the elections' centres, which will be at same place sametime for both the mayoral and municipal elections.

Deputy Nassib Lahoud warned the government yesterday of it's usual practice, such as directing the public administration, before or after the poll, to blackmail citizens, play out with the voters lists, also use of it's authority. Opposition MPs and figures are prepared, each in his region, for such interventions by the authority.

MP Najah Wakim would stage a counter campaign against what he named "authority coalition" in Beirut, and run the elections through backing of the opposition candidates.

As to Gen. Michel Aoun , the NLP under Chamoun, and the National Bloc, they urge their supporters to quickly obtain the cards, despite uncertainties, such as the short deadline to apply for election cards and keeping election law vague until last moment.

News In Brief

- President Elias Hrawi received Algerian envoy Tijani Salawnji assigned to brief Algerian communities abroad the situation at home and the coming parliamentary elections. He said the Algerian communities will have the right to vote in the June 5 elections and he is explaining how they could vote. News today said a postal vote is planned for the Algerians abroad.

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri's first coming visit to Moscow on 7th April, is expected to discuss and conclude four agreements on finance, tourism, economy and investments. The Russian side would offer to supply Lebanon with spare parts for the former USSR made arms available in Lebanon, also exporting oil and steel, and the opening of tourism offices in both countries. Moscow is expecting an 80 man delegation from Lebanon, including the prime minister and his 30 man delegation, also 50 businessmen, industrialists and traders. Hariri will meet president Yeltsin and Russian counterpart. He will be hosted at the President hotel in the Russian capital.

- NSSP party member Marwan Fares, a deputy of Baalbeck-Hermel, said yesterday the deterioration of Lebanon's socio-economic situation blamed on the Taif agreement. He said very little has changed in the make up of the political power in Lebanon, contrary to people's expectation and thought after Taif was concluded. Fares said after the middle class was wiped out, even the five per cent of the well-to-do portion of population had declined to 2 per cent as a result of a beast that eats away at power.

- Minister of the displaced Walid Jumblat, at the opening of a workshop in Chuf to launch an agricultural project, funded by the European Union and Italian institute, said improving the agriculture development in Mount Lebanon would stop residents from migrating for lack of economical opportunity. He hoped Lebanon would become agriculturally self-sufficient and be able to export it's products. Agriculture minister, who attended the opening, said the project in Chuf will help both the agriculture industry and the displaced.

- Agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury said only Egypt has complained of his ministry's banning potato imports, noting that Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were included in the ban. He justified the ban due to an unbalanced trade saying the trade gap for this year with Egypt is 31,076 tonnes of agricultural products imports from Egypt and 2,349 tonnes of Lebanese agricultural products to Egypt.

- Political analysts in Beirut says the "Christian depression" is not due to the decline of their stipulated power or the election's manupilation, but it is indeed the absence or forced absence of the Maronite strong leaders and consequently this era of deterioration. The analysts said the continued stagnation inside the Maronite community is not encouraging a meeting among the Maronite leaders.

- French ambassador in Lebanon Jean Pierre Lafon is departing after a three years service in Lebanon. He said he is now Lebanon's ambassador to the world and he had grown attached to Lebanon during the period. Lafon was hosted at a farewell launch at Mukhtara held in his honour by minister Walid Jumblat.

- Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said on Friday's prayer that the displaced issue in Lebanon, namely those of Nabaa and Burj Hammoud, is facing more complications and no efforts had been exerted to find a root solution. He said there should be a plan to resolve this issue which is the last of the war's results.

-A Mother's statue has been placed at Tabaris square in Ashrafieh yesterday thanks to Allied Bank's initiative. The bank's chairman asked Beirut municipality to change the name of the square to "Motherhood Square".

- UNRWA local staff in Lebanon in first such statement criticised their administration and demanded it change it's course of action. The significant statement stemmed from the administration's reshuffle by UNRWA-Lebanon director. Palestinian sources think the intention is to bring in more loyal staff who agree to the agency policy to reduce social and health services.

- Armenian Tashnak party delegation discussed with environment minister Akram Shehayeb the closure of quarries and the Burj Hammoud dump. Jezzine former deputy Edmond Rizk said the quarries issue is becoming a national and environmental case in Lebanon, with double danger for the nature and the public health. Mr Rizk reiterated his stand on rejecting quarries in the Jezzine area. Koura deputy Nicolas Ghosn also rejected government planning on quarries placing some quarries at his constituency namely at Metrit village.


- At Lebanon's Cup final tomorrow, Nijmeh will try to benefit  from the absence of  Ansar's line-up of  four key players. Player David Naked is suspended, Peter Prosper, Kevork, and Ososso are ineligible because they signed after the tournament began. The Ansar won the title seven times and last year they defeated Nijmeh 4-2.  Nijmeh won the title in 1989 after beating Tadamoun-Tyre 4-1 and the players will do their best to have one title for this season as at stake is L.L 5 mn for each player. Nijmeh will miss their young striker Bilal Flaifil, who will leave to Spain next week to treat a tendon problem.

Tomorrow's kick off will be at 3.00 p.m and the referee is French.  Nijmeh-Ansar match of  tomorrow is their 6th in 6 months and one week.

- Riyadi-Lebanon is one of eight Arab teams qualified for the quarter finals in the Pan Arab clubs basketball championship at Tunisia. Al Zahra-Tunisia defeated Riyadi yesterday 81-76 on the first day of this round. The Riyadi will face Al Ittihad- Sakandary, who won the Arab championship last year in Beirut. Homentmen women defeated Ahli of Egypt 69-67 and head the competition's six clubs.

- Arab ministerial committee now in Lebanon to report on Lebanon's sports facilities prior to the 8th Arab tournament, hosted by Lebanon, checked yesterday Tripoli stadium and were hosted at a launch by minister of education and sports Jean Obeid.

- Lebanon's basketball's championship; Antranik beat Wardieh with 81-72. Kahraba beat Anibale-Zahle with 78-67.

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