News from Beirut March 26  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-Morning Quake Struck The Country

Strong earthquake struck Lebanon this morning at 6.22 a.m., bringing back memories of the 1956 which caused extreme damages. The quake registered 5 to 5.3 on the Richter scale, and continued for almost 7 seconds with 8 aftershocks registering 2.5 to 3.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was Iqlim Kharoub, southeast of Beirut, 33 Kilometers from the Bhannes observatory. Seismologist believe that this recent quake had the same epicenter as the one in 1956, which killed 130 and damaged more than 4,000 houses. No casualties were reported but few old houses, namely at Ain Rummaneh, Dora, Ghobeiri, and Baabda were damaged. The event created major panic in Lebanon in the early hours as some churches rang their bells, Muslims held prayers. Many people are anticipating more quakes as was broadcasted by media station. Another quake struck Lebanon at 3.20 p.m. lasting 7 seconds and registering 4.5 on Richter scale.

Presidency-Bkerke-Pope Visit

President Elias Hrawi is to visit Bkerke on Friday- Good Friday- to meet Cardinal Sfair. During the visit, both leaders would discuss pressing issues such as the arrangements prior to a planned visit by Pope John Paul II . The Catholic Council of Patriarchs and Bishops at a meeting yesterday has laid down a spiritual program. Papal Nuncio Pablo Puente placed before the council a schedule of the visit, which was dispatched to the Vatican for approval.

The proposed schedule include:

1. Arrival at Beirut airport where his pontiff will be received by top officials and patriarchs. Churches and monasteries' bells to ring for ten minutes;

2. From the airport to the presidential palace where he will have meetings with the president, prime minister, speaker, and Muslim religious leaders. From Baabda to the Vatican mission at Harissa. At 5.00 p.m. a sermon and meeting with some youths;

3. On Sunday, a mass sermon at the Martyrs Square, which the Papal Nuncio call it Unity Square, although some preferred the Dbayeh shore;

4. From downtown Beirut to Bkerke where his pontiff will have meetings with Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian religious leaders. Launch at Bkerke.

Some 7,000 chairs were allocated to the meeting with youths, while 17,000 are expected to join the meeting. 70,000 chairs are also allocated to the Martyrs Square sermon while 200,000 are expected to attend. The Pope will stay overnight at the Vatican mission while the delegation will stay at Bkerke.

Public Administration

In a sudden visit yesterday to the Civil Service Council in Beirut, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri said the public administration issue is one of  the crucial files that his government would try to dissociate from political stagnation with mix results. He advocated giving the supervisory boards larger powers since the situation in the public administration is not well. Mr. Hariri admitted that the public is complaining of the civil servicemen's behavior. He said some files are raised at some times, shelved at another, and raised once again for political reasons. His remarks are signaling the ongoing disagreements among senior officials over administrative issues.

In a formal note to both the Ministers of the Interior and Defense ministries, Prime Minister Hariri inquired if any of their agencies or any other agency are tapping the phone calls including the cellular calls. Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss questioned the tapping earlier. This issue was also raised by the speaker before his trip to Paris. The parliament committees are going to discuss tapping with the concerned ministers. News analysts say Hariri is staging a preemptive campaign before issues such as tapping phone calls and public administration are raised at this critical time.


Yesterday, Speaker Nabih Berri has held meetings with several French parliamentary blocs, attended a one hour televised debate at the National Assembly, and was hosted at a reception and dinner in his honor by the Lebanese ambassador and Lebanon's permanent delegation to UNESCO.

Former French presidential candidate Philip de Filier and Member of Parliament Brono Rotayet, both of the national extreme right wings, pointed out in a joint statement that the visit of Lebanese Speaker to France should not overshadow the fact that General Michel Aoun embodies the resistance against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Lebanese University LU

The President's and Prime Minister's conflicting views on the appointment of  LU deans is so far an academic debate that did not turn into a public bickering or political dispute. Both parties have consulted the legal and academic community, with President Hrawi persisting that qualification and academic standards should be maintained. President Hrawi, who was quoted earlier as saying that the LU is graduating jobless people, is keen at considering thoroughly the appointments and asking a special committee to study the case.

Municipal Elections

Lebanon's parliament is scheduled to debate on April 2 and 3 amendments to the municipal law. It would adopt and condition that candidates to the municipal head's post should have the 2nd Baccalaureate. Consequently, some Members of Parliament who do not meet this criteria would then refrain.

At a meeting yesterday with the officials of the ministry, Minister of the Interior Michel Murr assigned some 170 mayors in various regions to fill vacant posts and serve their village or nearby villages. He announced that 70-80 such appointments would take place for another two months. The measure aims at resolving problems concerning the obtainment of election cards and correction of the voters' lists. Mr. Murr said parents or relatives of deceased persons will be fined if they do not report the decease. He added that the number of the election cards is so far 630 thousand and that he was expecting it to reach 800 thousand by the deadline. Mr. Murr contended that he would extend the deadline 10-15 days in April but not later than that because cards should be delivered before the elections.


The situation in Sidon and some quarters in Beirut, the scene of anger and protest amid the execution of three men, is reportedly calm.  Condolences were extended at Imam Ali Mosque at Tarik Jadideh in Beirut.

The Palestinian representatives and opposition figure Col. Munir Makdah, at separate meetings in the Ain Helwe camp in Sidon, with representatives of the rival Muslim factions Al Ahbash and the Partisans, stressed the importance of foiling all attempts to stir problems and put down any attempt by the Israeli Mossad.


Lebanon's Council of Ministers is to discuss at today's session, among other items, a proposed plan laid down by the Educational Center for Research and Development aimed at renovating and modernizing the educational programmes in Lebanon. The proposed program is the result of 400 experts' workshop who spent 320 thousand working hour on that, consulting UNESCO's experts and others. The history substance is postponed until a later stage. According to the program, the general education in Lebanon for the periods before university, is now divided into:

1-Nursery_2 years

2-Elementary_2 phases of 3 years each

3-Complementary_3 years Brevet

4-Secondary_3 years Baccalaureate with 4 branches :

a-Literature and Humanities

b-Socialites and Economy

c-General Science

d-Life Science

After the government endorses the new plan, new school books, including one for history and civil education, will be published; teachers to be trained to adapt to these changes. The new plan stipulates new official examinations system for the Brevet and Baccalaureate.

News In Brief

- First Lady Mona Hrawi declared that her husband, President Elias Hrawi, "Is determined not to accept extending his term in office anymore regardless of any circumstances and considerations." She wished he had not accepted the earlier extension and could go out because the country is hard and people like change. Mrs. Hrawi said she personally had been tired despite the pleasure of her social welfare work. Responding to a question of why women in Lebanon were not posted ministers though they had some parliament seats, she said the reason is due to family consideration, and since Lebanon's political activity is in the hands of families, the head of family is a man, consequently the political representation should be for the man. "As to presidency, there is no constitutional provision banning that but it is up to Members of Parliament," she added. Mrs. Hrawi contended that political disagreements among the top officials are not reflected on their spouses. She also said that her three sons had civil marriages and Lebanon's future depends on success regardless of confessional basis. She said her present effort is centered on the national heritage and the national museum which would be open by the end of June.

- The Maronite League in Lebanon said its aim is to transform itself to an institute, including political parties. It contends that the Christian traditional political parties have been based on individuals who did not think to transform their parties into institutions.

- At a sermon in Zahle yesterday, Bishop Andre Haddad pointed out, "Our people are suffering from all sides and from the strikes coming from in and out of the country." He added that the Christian people, who feel depressed and targeted, are suffering in particular, recalling that they once had privileges that are now being taken away from them. He called upon all and each of the state officials to listen to the angel and carry on with the mission, sacrifice, and go in line with justice and conscious. Haddad contended that such outcry is because there are things going contrary to the interests of people, but in favour of certain individuals.

- At a meeting yesterday under the leadership of Douri Chamoun, the National Gathering warned of any attempt to monopolize the representation of Beirut or marginaliz any group by choosing their representatives on their behalf. The gathering asserted that it is following up on the issue of evicting the displaced, and anticipating the outcome of a meeting of the Interior, Justice and Displaced Ministries on eviction, which would throw these families to the streets.

- The Murr floor law terminates by the end of August. Parliament housing committee is reviewing the legislation which continues now for 17 consecutive years.

- Yesterday, Minister Walid Jumblat visited Sheikh Mercel Nasr, who has close relationship with Sheikh Akl Bahjat Ghaith, after a long boycott that lasted two years.

- Minister of Justice Bahij Tabbarra conferred with President Elias Hrawi over a death sentence against an Egyptian national who killed two individuals of the Maalouf family. Asked about the latest executions, he said President Hrawi and other officials support the judicial sentences.

- The international Greenpeace watchdog organization's executive director Mario Damato said in Beirut that Lebanon is producing an annual 326 thousand tones of toxic wastes. He asserted that he is working with local environment activists to lay down a plan to tackle the problems of energy, treatment of wastes and industrial pollution.

- Most of Lebanon's dailies and media gave enough space to the environment and heritage affairs. The focus is a signal for the public's awareness about environmental problems.


- In a fax to football player David Nahid, FIFA assistant Secretary General said that the FIFA decided to dispatch Abdallah Debel to Lebanon to inquire and evaluate the situation and report to the FIFA on the case of Afro-Caribbean soccer players in Lebanon. The Lebanese federation had fined and suspended some of those players after 27 of them signed a complaint to the FIFA complaining of racial discrimination.

- Lebanon's Football Federation endorsed the arrangements for a friendly match between Lebanon and the Norwegian national teams on April 3 at Burj Hammoud stadium.

-Lebanon's volleyball cup first finals : Riyadi Ghazir to play with Shabiba Bawshrieh at Jounieh.

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