News from Beirut March 29  1997 ...Search

M.E: Ross Departs, Crisis at Stand Still

US mediator David Ross returned to Washington without making any progress in his recent mission to break the deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians  persist on halting Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank before resuming negotiations with Israel. While the Israeli side insists on their claim that Palestinians should prevent "terrorists" attacks.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, confrontations are mounting between the Israeli forces and the Palestinian demonstrators, overshadowing the Good Friday celebrities. Thousands of Israeli soldiers, reinforced with tanks and helicopters, are on alert in precaution of possible suicide operations and disturbances which might take place on the Land's Day.

- The Islamic Conference Organization's Jerusalem Committee recommended Thursday that the Islamic states which established relations with Israel close down Israeli missions and offices in their respective countries. The Arab League Ministerial Council is expected to endorse on Sunday and Monday a proposal by Yasser Arafat which called for "linking the relation with Israel to evident seriousness on implementing the accords signed with the Palestinians."

- News reports in Lebanon say an Arab summit is unlikely as Egyptian efforts seemed to be unsuccessful despite positive Syrian response.

- LEBANON-SUMMER-TIME : Midnight today Lebanon will observe beginning of  summertime advancing the clock one hour ahead.


- In his Easter's message, Cardinal Sfair called upon the government to care for the poor and to extend public services such as education, hospitalization. He said he cannot ignore or hide out the complaints that there were breaches of  laws as favoritism is forcing away the qualified, as was the case in the LU's  appointments. He contended that other violations include the forcing of the displaced to evict without providing them with any alternatives. Cardinal Sfair noted that there is a deliberate move to delay the issuing of certain laws, such as the municipal law, in an attempt to avert the result of the poll.

-Yesterday, Christians in Lebanon celebrated Good Friday with sermons and festivities calling for forgiveness and love. First sermon to ever be held since 1975 took place at the war-torn coastal town of Damour between the debris and the new structured houses.

- At a 55-minute private meeting at Bkerke yesterday, President Elias Hrawi and Cardinal Sfair discussed items including Cardinal Sfair's recent visit to Brazil, the last summit with President Assad , the continued deterioration in the south and the planned visit of Pope Jean Paul II. Cardinal Sfair expressed concerns over the continued hard conditions, criticising some practices, and repeating his stands on major issues such as imbalance, free decisions, independence and sovereignty. The Cardinal raised the municipal elections issue for which no law to organize it has been issued yet. President Hrawi reiterated his view on the LU's appointments.

Cardinal Sfair also explained his views on the trials and pardons, hoping that the officials could get Lebanon out of the prevailing situation. Both sides described the outcome of the meeting as positive and good. President Hrawi, speaking to Cypriot Maronites visiting Bkerke, wished them a Good Friday and hoped they can retain back their property in the Turkish sector. He visited the St. Esprit University and shared the sermon and attended a launch hosted in his honor.


Prime Minister Hariri is to discuss today with President Hrawi the Parliamentary debate on April 2 and 3 over municipal law. Mr. Hariri will extend his regards to the President for the Eastern occasion, before his scheduled departure tomorrow to Turkmanistan. He urged the parties to have a good atmosphere at the parliament's debate with Speaker Nabih Berri.

Lebanon-Pope Visit

News analysts in Beirut said that the Lebanese government and the Christian church here are both preparing for his pontiff's visit to Lebanon. Some 7,000 police and security men will be mobilized for protection during the two days visit. The government will provide security and the church is supposed to upgrade itself  to such a historical event that would garner moral backing to Lebanon locally and internationally.

The Pope is scheduled to have a meeting with several youths who would raise their thoughts and outcries.


Religious teaching in Lebanon is on the brink of turning to a major crisis. The government's last decision to adopt Fridays' and Sundays' afternoon for teaching religion in Lebanon's public schools is in fact is a first step to halt the religious teaching in all schools in Lebanon. It is expected that many parents won't send their children in the afternoon and on holidays for such teachings. The Muslim Shiite Higher Council was the first to have a say on that. The Council, after a broad meeting, said it will study the government's decision. News analysts said this is a diplomatic objection.

Media reports contend that the Catholic schools and the Muslim Sunni Iftaa would also raise objections.


The Islamic resistance claimed responsibility for ambushing a SLA's patrol along the Qantara main road yesterday, saying all the patrol's personnel were killed or wounded. The same resistance claimed responsibility for rocketing a SLA's outpost at Toumat Niha claiming it made direct hits.

-Seven children from the Qana village traveled yesterday to Canada in the framework of a cultural-amusement program aimed at relieving the children who faced last April's massacre by the Israelis. Their trip was sponsored and  financed by the Lebanese community in Canada.

The Aftermath of Executions

The execution of three Muslim militants and the following repercussions are not yet over. The Lebanese security forces enforced yesterday security measures around many mosques in Beirut. Some Sunni religious groups, in 5th statement since the execution, continue to raise the "grave mistake of execution" as it said. Their statements indicate that they will continue to work toward revealing the unacceptable ideas that have been "imported" by Al Ahbash group, and which were the main cause for the counteractions of the executed men. They contended that their moves are coordinated with senior Muslim authorities and the security forces. The groups said that it will hold prayers for the souls of the executed men on Sunday in Tripoli.

The Islamic groups in Sidon staged a protest at Ain Helwe camp in solidarity with Jerusalem and against the Israeli settlement policy. The protest turned to a campaign against the Sunni Al Ahbash, and caste doubts about their affiliation. The speakers said the group is an instrument used to split and fragment of the Sunni community under the pretext and shadow of Islam.


News analysts in Beirut said a Maronite League's survey revealed that  fifth of Lebanon's population are Palestinian refugees. The ratio of Palestinian in Lebanon is 20 percent of the population, 2.1 percent in Syria, and 25 percent in Jordan. Their estimated number, including those who illegally entered Lebanon, is nearly 600 thousands. Thousands of Palestinians were naturalized according to a new law in Lebanon on nationality. The question now, after the Palestinians complaint of UNRWA's declining services and UNRWA's complaint of budget deficit, is whether Lebanon could effectively deal with the issue when Israel is rejecting their return to their original lands and the USA is opposing the extension of UNRWA's work after the year 1999.

- The Palestinian PFLP group urged the Palestinian people to preserve UNRWA, but at the same time to readjust its course and function. The group called for opening the file of corruption at the agency until the end but on the condition that innocent people should not become scapegoats. The group said there are indications of a possible liquidation of the UNRWA in a long run, and that would be a reverse change and a major set back.

Lebanon-Raymond Edde

Lebanon's well known national figure and political leader, Raymond Edde, said that one of the most important achievements of President Elias Hrawi is to reinforce the execution law which he had laid down. He added that it was good for the maintenance of security to execute the killer. He had opposed a pardon law that had been proposed amid the 1958 events by late President Fuad Chehab. Edde said that "without the signing of ex-president Charles Helou of the law to execute killers, perhaps the high number of a 200 thousand murder incidents would have not occurred."

News In Brief

- LEBANON-SUMMER-TIME : Midnight today Lebanon will observe beginning of  summertime advancing the clock one hour ahead.

-Speaker Nabih Berri has returned back Thursday from his Paris visit. He called upon the government to place emigrants' issue at the top of its priority,  contending that the occupation is a defiance to the world's credibility and Lebanon's only option is the resistance against Israel. Berri's office denied that a meeting with French party leader Francois Leotard was on the schedule.

-In Beirut, a seminar on Jerusalem for the Land's Day was held at the Lebanese Press Association. Representatives of the Lebanese and Palestinian groups advocated the Arabism of Jerusalem, calling for the halting normalization of relations with Israel, and raising the motto of Jihad instead.

- The State Shawra Council is to announce shortly its rulings on the naturalization's decree. Observers expect the Council to impeach large number of the naturalized individuals who obtained Lebanese nationality according to that decree.

- Aley deputy Abdou Bejani said the trial of Samir Geagea is for political-security matters that led to many victims through violence and explosions. He announced that perhaps one day he will be granted pardon.

- SLA commander Antoine Lahd declared that he will expel any mayor or municipal head, appointed by the central government in Beirut, if he does not want to cooperate with Israel.

- The Egyptian Ambassador Adel Khodary handed President Hrawi a letter from his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mobarak. Ambassador Khodary said news on holding an Arab summit would be merely fabrication of news reports.

- Iran's Assistant Foreign Minister Mortada Sarmadi said the impasse in the Middle East peace process was enough to improve his country's relations with the Arab states. He added that Yasser Arafat is the big looser in the peace process, and that Iran is ready to take a common action that would  salvage and rescue the Palestinian's situation.

- Ministry of Information's censorship has reportedly prevented a T.V  interview with former deputy and lawmaker Hassan Riffai. The Lebanese TV station LBC had consulted the Shawra Council on the legality of censorship. Riffai opposed the measure from a legal point of view.

- A Hizbullah delegation is touring Islamic and leftist nationalist groups and parties to discuss a proposed platform which calls for Lebanese collective action which would carry on the resistance against Israel.

- The Lebanese Constitutional Council is expected to lay down its final ruling and conclusion on impeachment presented by some of the candidates to the last parliamentary elections last year. Observers expect the ruling to bring out surprising results in connection with various constituencies in Lebanon.

- In a Friday's prayer, Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine announced that women have the right to run for the forthcoming municipal and mayoral elections, urging them to do so.

- At a meeting yesterday, NLP party leader Douri Chamoun and National  Bloc's S.G Salim Salhab discussed the two parties stand on the coming municipal elections. Chamoun said all the opposition groups have the same common stand on the poll, urging the public to reach consensus tickets and candidates. He added that the government deliberately delayed the issuing of  relevant law.

- In Tripoli, unidentified gunmen shot and killed two aged persons at a jewelry located at a main street, steeling five Kgs of gold. The incident, which shocked the residents of Tripoli, evoked fears of a series of armed robberies. The two victims, a man and his wife, are close relatives of former Baath deputy Abdel Majid Raffii. The shop is owned by the daughter of Abdallah Shahal, former Secretary General of the Baath Party in Lebanon.

Sports Round Up

- Homentmen and Ikaa Aley's match yesterday at Safa Stadium in Beirut in the second day of Adha tournament was without any scores. Homenmen and Hikmeh are to play today at 3:30 p.m.

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