Briefing President Elias Hrawi yesterday on the outcome of the Islamic summit held in Islamabad, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri announced that the Israeli practices dismayed the participants, and that Lebanon's proposal to halt normalization of relations with Israel was acceptable to most members; the proposal was added to the final statement. Asked if the proposal is practical, Mr. Hariri contended that this could be demonstrated in future meetings such as the Jerusalem Committee meeting, the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting.
News analysts in Beirut believe that the Jerusalem Committee meeting, scheduled today in Morocco, won't adopt a stronger resolution than the one adopted at the Islamic summit. They believe that the proposal by Mr. Hariri and the Syrian Vice President Halim Khaddam would aim at isolating Israel regionally and internationally.
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz left to Morocco via Paris to participate in the Jerusalem Committee meeting. He announced upon departure that the current Middle East situation brought about the need for an Arab summit. He added that Lebanon's earlier warning, US veto of UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, would be detrimental to the peace process. Boueiz believes that the only exit from this deadlock would be for the United States to resume it role as an honest and fair mediator. He contended that their must be a series of evaluation about the current normalization with Israel as the latter took advantage of this relationship and ignored the Arab rights.
Currently, amending the municipal law and the appointments of the Lebanese University deans are two of the most controversial issues in Lebanon. President Elias Hrawi and Speaker Nabih Berri agree that there should be a separation between parliamentary posts and municipal head. On the other hand, Prime Minister Hariri see that it is possible to occupy both posts at the same time. The Parliamentary Liberation's Bloc, led by Mr. Berri, is to present a proposal which aims at separating both offices. President Hrawi is reportedly endorsing the proposal.
Other questions are still looming over the elections such as: Will the municipal head be elected directly from the people or by the elected municipal members?; Will there be a municipality for every 500 residents in a village or it will be same as in the 1977 law?; Will the security zone's councils be appointed or there will be elections held out of the zone?; Will the appointments include villages close or adjacent to the security zone, in that case in what basis would be adopted?; and will there be an increase in the number of mayors?
Speaker Nabih Berri continues his Paris visit, and the Lebanese Parliament is getting ready for a general session on April 2 and 3 to discuss amendments to the municipal law. The French President Jacques Chirac received Mr. Berri in the presence of the speaker of the French National Assembly. The talks centered on the stalled Middle East peace process and the situation in Southern Lebanon. Both sides share the anxiety over the impacts of Netanyahu's hard line policies.
Mr. Berri stressed at his meeting with President Chirac the importance of European role on the peace process noting the leading role that France could play. He also explained the importance of the fusion between Lebanese and Syrian tracks. Mr. Berri is quoted as saying that their views were identical notably on the absence of US role from Middle East peace process. He recalled that the US Secretary of State Mrs. Albright has expressed recently that it is essential to let the Middle East as it is now "until all parties there are exhausted enough to come in asking an intervention which would then be easy."
Discussing the Lebanese internal affairs, President Chirac is quoted as saying that the forthcoming municipal elections would be a major step in the sharing of power.
Speaker Berri also met the head of the foreign relations committee at the National Assembly Valerie Jescard Destain. He is scheduled to meet the French Foreign Minister de Charette and the leaders of the National Assembly's parties and committees. News reports added that Mr. Berri's meetings with several blocs in the French parliament is significant, noting that most of these blocs' views are close to that of the exiled General Michel Aoun, and not in sympathy with Syria but leaning to Israel. A meeting with Francois Leotard, a close friend of General Aoun and one of the most important pillars of the right wing coalition, is on Mr. Berri's coming schedule.
The Execution of two Lebanese and a Palestinian man at dawn yesterday for killing Sheikh Nizar Halabi of Al Ahbash group, evoked reactions and protest in Beirut. Their funeral has turned into a political and ideological demonstration with 5,000 marchers touring all of Beirut for four consecutive hours before the burial service. The marchers shouted slogans calling for an Islamic state, resignation of the state Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, describing the President and the government as infidel. They also called for the execution of Samir Geagea.
Lebanon presidential and governmental sources said the security measures will continue in Beirut and Sidon to prevent any repercussions amid the execution "which was a decision taken by the concerned judicial authority," sources said. News reports gave a version of the execution saying that the three men refused the mask and insisted to wear their ordinary clothes. They were hanged altogether in first such an event in Lebanon. They said their assassination of Halabi was a sacred one and they are going to martyrdom not to an execution.
The Beirut demonstration was a sort of an ice ball that grew to a crowded march. The Lebanese security forces were stationed at crossroads namely at Tarik Jedideh and Corniche Mazraa. They have succeeded in averting riots and troubles by the angry marchers who tried to attack their rival group at Al Ahbash centers. Some armed manifestations were reported after the prayers at the cemetery in Beirut.
The Lebanese army command asked the Internal Security Forces to investigate the armed manifestations and recalled that even if one has an arm license, he/she is not allowed to manifest it in public. It added that violators should be chased and referred to courts. At Sidon, a sound bomb exploded yesterday evening but reports said no damages were reported. The Lebanese army pulled out vehicles and units which were dispatched earlier and stationed them at the crossways leading to Ain Helwe camp. The army had reinforced checkpoints and enforced measures along the coastal highway south of Beirut, where they checked identities and searched for weapons, especially on the busses that came to Beirut to participate in the funeral.
At Ain Helwe camp, the stronghold or hideout of the leader of the "partisans group" Abu Mehjen, the situation was described as normal. Earlier, both the Partisans and their rival group Al Ahbash were reportedly on alert in some of the camp's quarters. At a press conference in Ain Helwe yesterday, Palestinian opposition figure Col. Munir Makdah contended that 10 persons were arrested inside the camp for stirring tensions. He asserted that the Lebanese authority has to recognize his group as a Palestinian authority responsible inside the camp. He said there is no need for a security force, because the Palestinian security force can enforce security. Asked if the Lebanese army measures were due to Abu Mehjen's presence inside the camp, Makdah alleged that the man is hiding out since an arrest warrant issued against him and after his house was destroyed. He pointed out that he "has assurances that the man is out of the camp, but under the pretext of Abu Mehjen case it is not allowed the camp to be destroyed or it's security be manipulated."
In a written statement, one of the partisans group leaders denied that Abu Mehjen is in the camp. The statement read that those who signed and contributed to the unfair execution will face God's punishment. General Prosecutor Adnan Addoum denied reports that alleged that he received phone threats that required taking security measures around his residence. He contended that these news were baseless and misleading to the public. Addoum recalled that the prosecution is not political and that courts issued the sentences.
Reports from Southern Lebanon said the Israeli artillery pounded areas in the eastern and middle sectors. The Israeli forces released four men from Houla village who were arrested earlier. Two new persons were arrested yesterday by the Israeli units at Arnounn village.
The South Council announced it will start to pay third payment compensating for last year April's damages incurred by Israel, including compensations to martyrs and wounded persons.
The appointment of LU three deans will once again be discussed by the government at its weekly session tomorrow. President Elias Hrawi is determined to keep the LU away from political and sectarian stagnation. Prime Minister Hariri is believed to have formed a legal team to review the legality of the appointment of the three deans. If the team proves that these appointments were in conformity with the law, then he will endorse them and vice versa.
- Yesterday, President Elias Hrawi received the head of the Geneva Canton who is visiting Lebanon for the second time in 30 years.
- Cardinal Sfair is to preside today over a meeting for the catholic patriarchs and bishops to review the planned visit of the Pope to Lebanon. Yesterday, he received Member of Parliament Butros Harb who declared that he discussed the present political and social situation, and the necessity to confront all what contradicts with democracy. Cardinal Sfair also received the Kataeb party delegation, headed by Elie Karameh, and the Italian ambassador and other VIPs.
- In a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister's office clarified that Mr. Hariri trips abroad are on his own expenses and not public money. The same applies to the Lebanese delegation that accompanied him abroad in various international forums. The statement was in response to remarks echoed by deputy Mohammed Yussef Baydoun.
- Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Mortada Sarmadi is currently visiting Beirut to discuss bilateral and cultural relations.
- Speaking at Baaqline, Minister Walid Jumblat pointed out that those who maintained the Mountain's unity, Arabism, and coexistence will not fail now to reach a national consensus on municipal councils in Deir el Qamar, Aley, Baaqline, Barja and elsewhere. He said Arabism is here in the triangle of Lebanon-Syria and Egypt and not in Gulf. He asserted that if "Arabism collapsed in this axis the Gulf will consequently collapse."
- At a lecture in Toul-Nabatieh organized by AMAL movement, the head of the Islamic Shiite Higher Council Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine announced that the resistance is open to all Lebanese, but at the present it is conceived to Shiites only. He argued that the resistance should be composed, in objectives, content, structure, of all Lebanese Christians and Muslims, who all have same hostile feeling against Israel. Shamseddine questioned the decline of AMAL despite their remarkable history and size.
- Employees of the public sector, autonomous administrations, and sea transport syndicates will stage an open strike as of April 3 in protest to the government's ignorance to their demands.
- The Syrian Sports union confirmed that Syria's first soccer team is going to participate in the forthcoming Arab 8th sports tournament which will be held in Beirut .
- The Lebanon Tennis Union is to hold a press conference Wednesday to announce an expected match between Lebanese and Thai tennis teams in the semi finals of the Asian-Oceanic Davis cup.
- Homentmen basketball women lost to the Tunisian al Malaab in Tunisia 60-68.
- The Lebanese Football Federation announced an all over calendar for 97-98 season.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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