News from Beirut March 3  1997  .......Search

Japan-Red Army

Japanese high ranking official Hirishi Hirabayashi, a top aide to Japan's prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, arrived to Beirut yesterday, and scheduled to meet today prime minister Rafic Hariri, foreign minister Fares Boeiz, and president Elias Hrawi this evening.

He said upon arrival to Beirut airport" I am here as the envoy of Japan's prime minister to discuss the already good ties between Japan and Lebanon and the case of the Red Army". He is carrying letters to Lebanon's president and prime minister providing an unquestionable proof that some of the suspects arrested in Beirut are members of the red Army. Also he is expected to present results of fingerprints analysis conducted by Japanese investigators.

His mission is seen here as an attempt to preempt any final report of the investigations that would question the suspects links with the group. Japan's prime minister said on Saturday he was puzzled over the handling of the Red Army case and seeking answers after the contradictory statements by senior Lebanese officials. "I don't know the Lebanese legislation well. This detention means there was some allegations. I need to clarify why the case took turns and swifts", he was quoted saying in Tokyo by agencies. The Japanese media said prime minister Hashimoto was also acting on fears that Lebanon would indict the suspects for travelling on forged passports, a development that could delay their extradition.

In Beirut, media reports said that the Japanese envoy is to present two requests, first to allow a Japanese security officer to meet the suspects and to have access to the investigation report, and second that the suspects to be handed , in case they proved to be members of the Red Army. The media said the Lebanese response will be it is impossible for a Japanese officer to participate in the investigations, however, information can be obtained from general prosecutor, and the Japanese ambassador can ask that through a note to the foreign ministry, also it will say that there is no extradition agreement between the two countries, consequently Lebanon cannot hand over the suspects.

The Lebanese media here said that the Japanese envoy will offer Tokyo's readiness to aid Lebanon and to respond positively to Lebanon's economical request, but if the suspects are not handed, Tokyo cannot provide that aid because it's public opinion will not support that. The media here says the envoy will convey a written request demanding the handing of the suspects but the verbal message will warn of the consequences if they are not handed.

Information in Beirut said the penalty of those who were involved in the operation will be severe, and it is questioned whether the state security or one of it's officials were involved without the knowledge of the political authority. Lebanon's minister of agriculture said yesterday "under the law, the suspects must stand trial in Lebanon if found  to be guilty of any crime here. Legally speaking, there is no question about handing the detainees before they stand trial in Lebanon and serve out their sentence here."

On Saturday, general prosecutor Adnan Addoum met president Elias Hrawi, who ordered him to handle the case properly. Addoum will hold talks today with the Japanese security team in order to compare the evidences obtained by both sides. Syria is said to be annoyed of the confusion over the case, particularly opening the file of those who had attacked Israel. It is said here that Kozo Okamoto is not among the detainees.

Deputy Sami el Khatib yesterday said the case of the Japanese detainees was due to an error in the functioning of the security agencies, Lebanon is posed to pay off high for that, and those responsible of the error should be penalized. Deputy Ali Osseiran said the case has harmed Lebanon's image and it is a result of the diverse decision making's bodies, adding that the Lebanese deserve much better standard of those running it's affairs.

Minister Omar Miskawi considered that coordination among the security agencies is weak and that is reflection of the political situation in the country, put emphasis on the independence of the judges, and that all should abide by the law namely in cases of arrest.

South Lebanon

The five nation monitoring committee is due to hold today its 6th meeting this year, the 11th since it's establishment, to see to an Israeli complaint on the killing of one soldier on Friday in a resistance attack. Lebanon foreign ministry expressed outrage at the Israeli complaint, insisted that the resistance did not violate the guidelines of the April's understanding.

The ministry says Israel had broken the agreement because its retribution for the death of one of its soldiers had targeted civilians. The Israeli side claimed that the resistance fired on Israeli position from an inhabited area in Nabatieh.. The Lebanese foreign ministry source said the resistance fighters were 1500 meters away from the closed inhabited area, and an evidence of this fact will be produced at the meeting. The Lebanese delegation to the meeting today will ask Israel be held responsible for violating the ceasefire agreement through it's shelling of inhabited areas in Nabatieh.

On eve of the monitoring committee's meeting, Israel's warplanes raided yesterday Jabal Safi in Iqlim Toffah region, drawing anti-aircraft fire from the Islamic resistance also from the Lebanese army positions there. No direct hits were reported. The raid, 20th this year, inflicted no casualties according to Hizbullah.

Hizbullah deputy Ammar Mussawi said Israel is seeking, through it's unabated attacks against the civilians, to gradually rescind the April agreement. He warned that the resistance fighters will resort to firing Katyusha rockets against Israeli civilian targets if Israel does not stop its aggressions. Lebanon's politicians and public opinion leaders regard the Israeli repeated violations of the ceasefire agreement as rejection to the basis and guidelines of Madrid peace conference and a pressure on eve of the planned visit of the Pope trying to make him reconsider his visit.

Brazil-Cardinal Sfair

Cardinal Sfair last day visit to Sao Paolo yesterday, before leaving to the capital Brazilia, was marked by the massive crowds attending the St Maroun mass held at St Mary church. Cardinal Sfair said the consecutive wars had  burnt Lebanon and the Synod will help to overcome and forget the past.

-Maronite Bishop of Byblos Beshara Rai, lecturing students in Byblos, said the Pope visit to Lebanon aims to express solidarity with the Lebanese and to help them get out of their problems. It is also to assure what he was telling the whole world that Lebanon is a victim of international and regional schemes. He said prime minister Hariri's visit to the Vatican had nothing to do with the Synod, but it was to thank his pontiff for visiting Lebanon and to welcome him. He said the Synod had been already finalized and under printing, "what had been written was written and the Synod in final version is finished a time ago".

-Nassib Khoury yesterday said those demanding the Synod should be modified, namely the provisions on pluralism and pull outs, should know that such modification would empty the Synod from some basics. He added that such modifications will be regarded as negative by the Christians, who so far complaint of imbalance and any further move will aggravate their suffering.

The Synod for the Christians is least minimum accepted and the only guarantee of the Christian free existence in the orient.

George Mitchell Visit

-US presidential adviser and former senator George Mitchell arrived to Beirut Sunday to chair a meeting of the International Crisis group's third annual conference, a non-profit making organisation with a mission to prevent conflicts, at the Bustan Hotel in Beit Meri.

12 other members of the group arrived on board of the private jet of Akkar deputy Issam Fares, who invited the group to hold conference in Lebanon. Mitchell made no mention of the 10 year-old-travel ban by the USA, and declined to answer questions on whether he had obtained government clearance for his visit. He stated the fact that his mother was a native of Bekassine, an occupied southern village near Jezzine. He said "this is emotional moment for me because my mother was born in Lebanon, and this is my first ever visit to Lebanon. My mother brought with her to the US the traditions and values that she acquired as a young girl here in Lebanon and she transferred those values to her children". The Lebanese officials expressed the hope the former senator would lobby Washington to lift the restriction.

News In Brief

-Deputy Nassib Lahoud yesterday aid there is no other solution to the disagreements among the high officials except to generate the constitutional institutions. "the Lebanese are united in their view toward the resistance to Israel", he said. He also said the consultations with Syria should be exclusively made only by the state officials.

-Prime minister Rafic Hariri, according to media reports, said to have rescinded contracting with Canada post to modernize Lebanon postal service, something caused a silent crisis between the two countries. Hariri, who is planned to go to Canada on 10th April, said to have preferred a French company instead. Canada is reported dismayed over the irresponsible act by Lebanon. Canadian trade minister, in his recent stop in Beirut, recalled that canada opened its doors to the Lebanese during the war time, pledged $200 mn to Lebanon at the Friends of Lebanon forum, also it did not impose travel ban same as USA despite its close ties with the USA.

-Speaker Nabih Berri left on Sunday to Kuwait in a three day visit. He said on departure that there are no disagreements with president Hrawi and he will visit Baabda palace when necessary. The media predict he will visit the presidential palace after the visit to Kuwait.

- Minister of state for financial affairs Fouad Seniora left Saturday to Brussels to attempt to restart discussions on the proposed partnership with the European Union. The partnership agreement's negotiations were halted last year because of disagreements on tariff  levels on Lebanon agricultural goods.

- Minister of economy Yassine Jaber yesterday said that "all Lebanon has seen the shopping festival succeed to dimensions which we did not expect when we planned the activity. This success has prompted us to decide to make this festival a yearly event". On Saturday he attended a dinner by Jounieh-Kesrouan merchants held in his honor, and on Sunday he addressed a rally in Verdun street marking the end of the festival. Jaber said MEA airliner worked at full blast, the hotel rooms were occupied with 70 to 90 per ent, restaurants packed with customers, and large number of stocks were sold out, also it had impacts on banks which operated at rates higher than usual.

- "The central bank will push ahead with its drive to prop up the value of  the pound, curb inflation and bolster economic growth, and the monetary stability is a strategy that would alter the dollarisation and attract foreign investments", The head of Beirut Chamber of Commerce and industry Adnan Kassar said.

- Green groups are urging the government to regulate quarries, including the quantity of explosives now used to blast the rocks. Quarries location should be chosen in a way not to harm environment, water sources or people living in the area. First lady Mona Hrawi said at a seminar Saturday on environment education and sustainable development, that the green issues are not receiving sufficient attention".

- Director general of operations and maintenance at the P.T.T ministry Abdel Muneem Yussef yesterday said the satellite broadcasts' fees have not been paid by television stations because the rental contracts in question have not been completed. He denied reports in the media on irregularities in payment of fees for satellite broadcast stations, and granting licenses for radio-wave-based information transmission. The satellite broadcast law stipulates an application fee of $60000, in addition to a $1.4 mn annual fee. The Future T.V started satellite broadcasts in Oct last year, and the LBC currently broadcasts intermittently from Lebanon's transmitter at Jouret el Ballout.

- Agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury called the government to declare a health state of emergency in Bekaa and in all-over Lebanon to treat the health and environment problems, emphasising on the trial of those responsible of the pollution and aggrevating health situation in the region.

-The National Syrian Socialist Party NSSP celebrated the first March birthday of the party founder Antoine Saadeh in series of rallies allover Lebanon.

-Lebanon's council of ministers is to discuss at coming Wednesday weekly session 34 item including namely a guideline scheme plan for the quarries, and the Tele Liban station.

- Tunisian television decision, to dispatch a team to Beirut to have interviews and to record the current reconstruction projects, which will be broadcasted by Tunisian satellite broadcast, was main topic of discussion at the meeting yesterday between information minister and Tunisian ambassador.

-General prosecutor Adnan Addoum, in a press interview, believes that Lebanon judiciary is immuned and healthy against the political polarizations that has beset many other public institutions. He said "judicial corps exercises its powers fully and freely and does not receive instructions from anyone". He added that "no one can exercise pressure on judge unless the judge himself allows for this to happen".

-The central bank get ready to issue 3 year treasury bond with an interest rate higher by almost one point than that on the two year bonds. The issue of new bonds will be in coming weeks, at a time the public debt rise up to L.L 11bn and the debt service in the fiscal budget amount to 30 percent average..

- The planned municipal elections attract more focus. Deputy Sami el Khatib says it will take place, unless an unusual security event take place and prevent the citizen to reach the voting centre, adding that the present law under which the election will take place, should be modernized, but if we had no time for that, the present one will be allright for time being.

Deputy Ali Khoreis said the election is a due event for the better of the villages' development, and to regenerate the municipal council's role in major cities.

Deputy Istifan Duweihi is aware of the political interventions in the election, and wishes the central government leave it up to the residents in the villages and towns to decide for themselves. However, there are renewed talking on the decentralized system, and a thought to abolish the present governorates and Qadaas and turning it into a 32 administrative unit is now under discussion.

- Displaced minister Walid Jumblat received delegations from different villages to discuss with the repatriation affairs and the funding of the displaced resettlement. The parliament housing committee endorsed allocating L.L 314 bn to the displaced fund.

-The Lebanese consumed $314,463,063 worth of medicines last year with antibiotics, tranquillisers, and heart treatment topping the sales, a study by the Lebanese medicine counselling office said.


-Shabiba went down to the bottom of the table after a 2-0 humiliating defeat by Ikhaa -Aley at the Safa stadium . The Shabiba needs to win all the three remaining games, in order to have any chance of staying in the top . Even if they do add nine points from those games they will be relying on Hikmeh and Racing to loose at least two matches in their favour.

Shabiba has only 15 points from the whole season.

-At Tripoli, the Homentmen Wartan Ghazarian chalked up his 17th goal of the season for the Homentmen, but it was not enough to give his side a victory, as Ansar hit back to earn 1-1 draw. The Ansar team was in control from the beginning to the end of the match thanks to Jamal Taha.

-The Hikmeh added three more points to its toll after a sound victory against Safaa. The only goal during the match was by Hikmeh player Hassan Ayoub. Hikmeh defeated Safaa with 1-0. Hikmeh now went up to 11th. Safaa remains in fifth place with 34 points.

-The leading scorer in the league is Wartan with 17 goals, followed by player Peter Prosper with 15, and the third is Homentmen player Terro Kihian with 13 goals.

Basketball tournament

-Tadamoun defeated  Anibale-Zahle with 89-88

-Abnaa Neptune defeated Wardieh with 81-76

-Hikmeh defeated riyadi-Beit Meri with 85-83

-Director general of the sport and youth Zaid KHiami, speaking at a rally in Batroun, said Lebanon's peace should be immuned by national unity, and the youths are relied on to get out Lebanon from the past, with it's divisions and fragmentations.

-As expected Morocco dominated the 18th international cross country race in  Jbeil yesterday although Lebanese contestants put up a good fight. The event, staged for both, amateurs and professionals by the Champville Marists brothers is called Les Boucles de Byblos and attracted a large crowd of spectators.

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