An official memorandum by Japan, handed to Lebanon foreign ministry and the general prosecutor, confirmed that five Japanese Red Army members and three other Japanese, are detained in Lebanon. A statement was supposed to be released sametime in Beirut and Tokyo but Lebanon preferred to take 24 hours more. The same names and photos published today on front pages were released in Tokyo 19 days ago. The Japanese foreign ministry said the identification of the eight was done in cooperation with the Lebanese government which provided the fingerprints and pictures.
It said Tokyo intends to take rapidly the necessary legal measures to extradite them. The ministry confirmed that Kozo Okamoto is among the five Red Army members. The photos and names are published today in front pages of Beirut leading dailies. It include Masao Adashi, Mariko Yamamoto, Kozo Okamoto, Kazuo tohira, and Haruo Wako.
Lebanon's general prosecutor Adnan Addoum said the the suspects will be indicted tomorrow and then be tried for the crimes they had committed in Lebanon. He said "any extradition could be considered only after they complete their sentences". He did not deny or confirm the Japanese assessment and said the information warranted further investigations for 24 hours, and more questioning of the suspects will be carried out. Addoum also said that the five Red Army suspects have arrest warrants issued against them in Japan on terrorism related charges, but no specific crimes were mentioned in the files handed to him by the Japanese investigators.
He did not answer a question about what charges the three Japanese nationals could face since they reportedly travelled with no valid papers. Addoum refused to name any of the Japanese saying such information must remain confidential because of the secrecy required for the investigations. He said "We have to make sure these facts are correct and to question again those arrested to find out if they really are from the Red Army".
Asked why Lebanon had not finished the investigations based on the information supplied by Tokyo, he said "it is our duty to face the people arrested with facts given by the Japanese and to listen to what they have to say on the basis of those information". Mr Addoum approved a request handed to him yesterday to allow a Japanese official to see the detainees. Only one embassy staff member would see the suspects and he is only allowed to ask questions related to their health and conditions of incarceration, but not about the investigation.
The case now in Beirut is who will take the decision, the judiciary, the security agencies or the executive authority. Lebanon council of ministers is to meet today at a weekly ordinary session. While both the foreign minister and prime minister declared that the case is resolved and on right track, Lebanese officials expressed dismay of the Japanese unilateral announcement, aimed to embarrass Lebanon and make it surrender to the result of it's inquiry on identification. The same approach was taken by Japan when it announced the information on the arrest by the official media and the prime minister of Japan, before Lebanon answer back it's inquiry.
An unidentified gunman driving a Toyota car opened fire at a Syrian bus carrying Japanese tourists near Baalbeck yesterday, following a dispute over the right of way, but no one was hurt in the shooting, witnesses and security sources said. The tourists were coming from Damascus on a day trip to the Roman temples of Baalbeck, when the incident occurred shortly before noon. Security sources said the police provided protection for the tourists, as the military commander checked on them pledging to track down the culprits. He ruled out any political motives behind the incident. The Lebanese officials and security sources emphatically denied any link with the arrest of the Japanese.
-The 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee, after a marathon session that started on Monday and ended Tuesday dawn, issued a statement urging restraint by both sides, but did not endorse the Israeli claim that the Friday resistance attack was a violation of the ceasefire. The statement said "By unanimity, the group reaffirmed the obligation of all the combatants to act strictly in accordance with the understanding of April 26. 1996, which prohibits attacks from and on civilian populated areas. It urged once more all those responsible to avoid using methods of operation which directly or indirectly endanger the civilian population and to show restraint and caution". Lebanon delegate to the panel Col. Maher Tufeili presented video tapes and pictures showing the damage Nabatieh and nearby villages had sustained in Friday's bombardment by Israel. He insisted that the resistance fighters operated from an area at least 1,200 metres far from the inhabitants. Lebanon refrained to protest the Israeli bombardment , to focus instead on discrediting Israel.
Cautious calm prevailed in south Lebanon yesterday as security reports mentioned that the Israeli artillery fired shells at the vicinity of Nabatieh. The Israeli artillery combed the hideouts of the resistance. The Israeli warplanes continued their routine reconnaissance flights over various sectors and the navy continued it's siege to the coast from Naqoura to Sarafand.
Interior minister Michel Murr, speaking yesterday after a three hour joint session of four parliamentary committees, said the municipal councils in the occupied border strip will not be retained, rejecting a proposal by Hizbullah deputies on that. He rejected a proposal to appoint one fourth of the municipal council in certain areas, and a suggestion concerning the distribution of the electoral cards. He said "everybody knows what will be the result of an election in Merjeuoun or elsewhere".
Hizbullah deputy Abdullah Kassir said he sees no positive and only negatives in the government decision to appoint new municipal councils because free elections cannot be held in the occupied sector. He said his party supports the government's continuing steps to make municipalities effective in other ways, such as energizing the ministries and other government agencies. Murr also rejected the using of identifications cards in the coming June's election, instead of the electoral cards, saying already 100 thousand cards were issued in the first five days of the process. He said the cards are designed to prevent forgeries and it requires only a token fee. He said there is no need to extend the deadline to apply for the cards, urging the citizens not to wait until the last ten days of the month to submit their applications.
He said a proposal to appoint one-quarter of the municipal councils was rejected by some deputies. The justification of such proposal is that at the eastern and southern suburbs there are over one million residents, who pay the municipal taxes but do not vote, because their civil registration is elsewhere. He said another proposal concerning the Mukhtars, in light of the population changes, would mean that Beirut's current number of 52 Mukhtar should be tripled. The law and administration committee will continue discussions today.
-Lebanon speaker Nabih Berri, now visiting Kuwait and expected to return back today, praised Kuwait contribution to Lebanon and south. He said after a meeting with Emir of Kuwait that "Kuwait would not alter its political support to Syria and Lebanon in the regional peace process and it is not in hurry to make peace with israel". He also said "Kuwait's financial support to Lebanon and south has never stopped and will continue ". Mr Berri urged the Kuwait's Fund for Arab Economic Development to fund the Litani river Hydroelectric project.
He said the project will increase irrigation, distribution of potable water in south and west Bekaa, and counters the Israeli claim that Lebanon's water flow into the sea and for that it should be shared. The fund's deputy director general said the fund has reached a preliminary agreement with Lebanon on financing the next three years projects worth of $100 mn. These include setting up a highway in Nahr el Mot, a highway between Qalamoun and Beddawi in north, treating potable water for Beirut southern suburbs, and infrastructures at Doha east of Beirut.
Speaker Nabih Berri, the first non-Kuwaitee to address Kuwait's parliament, said at the parliament's podium in Kuwait "Israel's refusal to comply to the UN resolutions makes us ask the question; is it above the international law ? , Is it an exceptional country which is exempted from applying international resolutions? . He said " forcing the Iraqi forces to go out of Kuwait should be an example to be followed by the UN when dealing with occupation elsewhere.
US former senator and presidential adviser George Mitchell ended yesterday three days visit to Lebanon. At a press conference held at the airport, he said "in the short space of few days, we feel we have learned a great deal about Lebanon. It's people interest in achieving peace in the future and the prospects of peace in the region. Once the peace achieved it will give tremendous possibility for economic growth in Lebanon and across the region.
Mitchell said he leaves with a new understanding of the road to peace. Member of the International Crisis Group deputy Issam Fares, host of Mitchell and 11 other group's member, said he believes the travel ban on Lebanon could have been lifted if Warren Christopher had not been replaced by Albright.
-President Elias Hrawi received the Lebanese former ambassador to the USA Riyad Tabbara.
-Deputy speaker Elie Firzli after a meeting with prime minister Hariri said they agreed on separating politics from administration. He said he discussed two issues including administration and information. Firzli is leaving to the Vatican for a three days visit . He is scheduled to meet vatican's foreign minister Jean Louis Tauran.
-France's foreign minister is expected to arrive to Beirut tomorrow. His Lebanese station will last only five hours and he is scheduled to meet top officials, and visit the french helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc.
-Italian prime minister's visit to Lebanon, first since long time, is scheduled on 18th March. Two Italian warships will come earlier on 12th March.
-Raymond Edde says that the greatest service France can extend to Lebanon is to force the Israeli army to pull out of the Lebanese territory. "It is unacceptable that the great five stand idle, since more than 19 years, toward the clear violation of the international law, on the account of Lebanon by Israel, which get ready now in an illegal way, to occupy the eastern Jerusalem.
-Lebanon prisons' administration said the number of prisoners allover Lebanon is 4,776.
-Lebanon health minister Suleiman Franjieh ordered his ministry concerned department to follow up the case of Egyptian singer Sayyed Mikkawi and provide good care for him .
-The National Gathering questioned yesterday what authority one should refer to when a citizen is arrested contrary to law and regulations. It warned the government of the damage it inflicted in the case of the Japanese arrests.
-Prime minister Rafic Hariri received yesterday a group of Saudi investors who expressed their intention to participate in the reconstruction projects. The group said Mr Hariri briefed them on the progress of the free trade zones project.
-Lebanon unlicensed radio and television stations aired their troubles with the prime minister. The follow up committee said Hariri confirmed the case of the licensing will be dealt with in accordance to laws.
-The Lebanese university lecturers began yesterday two days strike at campuses around the country.
-Villagers at Iqlim Kharoub protest at the proposal to relocate quarries in their region. Shops in the area closed down in protest and residents slammed the government plan on quarries.
-Nejmeh team won against Homenmen at Burj Hammoud stadium. Iraqi attacker Ali Kazem scored the goal at 68th minute.
-Today's match between Ansar and Burj would be a thriller. The Ansar is defending a title it had scored for 8 consecutive eight years.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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