News from Beirut April 1  1997 ...Search

Middle East

The Arab League 107th meeting, held in Cairo, at the foreign ministers level Cairo called for halting of normalization of relations with Israel, to continue to impose a economical boycott on Israel, and to suspend the Arab participation in the multinational peace negotiations in order to draw Israel to recommit itself to the Madrid conference's formula.

This seems to be the harshest and strongest coordinated measure taken by the Arabs against the Israeli hard line government policies since it was established. Washington was critical of the resolution , and the Israeli Prime Minister ridiculed it expecting its failure. However, the Arab foreign ministers did not specify what would be the obligations of the Arab states, namely those who already signed peace accords with Israel, neither did they lay down a mechanism of implementation.

After a meeting in Cairo with President Mobarak of Egypt, Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz said the Arab League's decision on halting normalization of relation was a message to Israel to return back to the peace process, as well as a message to the USA to return back to its role as an honest mediator and sponsor. He added that the League's resolutions were the same as the ones taken in Rabat during the Jerusalem Committee meeting.

King Hussein of Jordan is to hold talks today in Washington with President Clinton. Jordanian Ambassador in Israel said his country will not suspend its peace accord with Israel.


Lebanon's Constitutional Council is expected to announce this week its rulings on 19 impeachments concerning the last parliamentary elections. Media reports said 3-5 of these impeachments would be probably positive, meaning that some members of parliament might actually loose their seats.

Lebanon-Municipal Elections

Lebanon's Parliament is to debate tomorrow and the day after amendments on the municipal law. Minister of the Interior Michel Murr is to preside today over a meeting of the Central Security Council. He announced the extension of the deadline to apply for election cards for another 15 days which means until mid April. The information received by the Ministry showed that 840,000 Lebanese already applied for the cards but were not delivered yet.

Moreover, the electoral body will be called to the elections on April 25th and that the date of the poll will not be changed. Prime Minister Hariri declared on March 29 that the deadline for election cards should be extended because the number of applicants is limited, despite the Ministry of Interior's efforts. He contended that amendments of the municipal law are simple and that the parliament debate will discuss it. Mr. Hariri added that he is in favour of the dual posts of the parliament and municipality for members of parliament. He noted that the present law gives the MP such right.

Minister of the Interior Michel Murr called the Minister of Justice Bahij Tabbara to take rapid measures against a judge who refrained from taking the legal oath of the newly assigned mayors. Mr. Murr contended that this action has led to a halt in implementing a decision taken by the public authority as well as casting doubts on the entire municipal elections process, and consequently affecting the proper functions of the assigned mayors.


Monday, Prime minister Rafic Hariri returned back from a one day visit to Turkmanistan aimed at setting the foundations for economical and trade relations. Mr. Hariri said Lebanon is looking to establish diplomatic relations and encourage investments. Turkmanistan is an oil rich country with considerable gas reserve and $13 billion annual GNP and $ 1.2billion worth of exports.


Lebanon parliament is to discuss at a general session on April 2 and 3 a range of 21 draft laws including the municipal elections law. Other draft bills include the crime penalties on assaulting the weather, electricity, and telephone networks, practice of pharmacy and engineering, and loan agreements with the World Bank.


Israeli commander of the liaison in the occupied Southern Lebanon Gen. Amitai claimed that Hizbullah has received serious blows and failures that forced it to change tactics, claiming too that the Hizbullah men are living a state of panic and have not had the desire to participate in operations against the security strip.

He was speaking to SLA officers at a training camp at Majidiyeh where new recruits are trained. He revealed that the SLA will receive most developed weapons this year, that would enable it to operate against the resistance fighters day and night, including too long distance firing devices, and formation of special units to strike the enemy in or out and deep into the strip. He said he found the new recruits capable of serving in the advanced posts. The SLA radio station quoted an Israeli Kenesset member, during a visit to the SLA, as saying that the future of the security zone under the peace process is far from solution and for that the SLA and Israel should work together to maintain stability and security.

AMAL movement said a Lebanese, serving as Israeli intelligence agent in the Kassir village, has been arrested. The movement said the spy has provided information to Israel on the blasts planted by resistance.

According to news agencies, the Israeli forces dynamited on Friday the house of SLA deserted officer Haidar Hashem in Beit Lif village in the middle sector. The agencies added that five other houses in the vicinity were destroyed during the dynamiting. Two third of the village population took refuge north of the security zone out of the occupied area, while only 1,000 are still living there most of them over 50 years old.

Lebanon- Land Mines, A Permanent Danger

News agencies said over 200,000 land mines are still buried in various parts of Lebanon, excluding the 850 Km2 occupied by Israel in Southern Lebanon.

In the south of Bekaa, east of Lebanon, some 11 tones of explosives and mines are scattered in a 70 Km2, where around 20 thousand people are still living. The area's mines, named the mines valley, had killed 189 person and handicapped 212 others during the past 15 years. Ghazzeh village, one of 15 village in the area, lost 15 resident and some 18 others were disabled out of the total 800 population. The question is who will remove the mines planted around those 15 village. The Lebanese army started in 1991 a large scale sweep of mines but it is still a delicate mission as priority is given to downtown Beirut.


In a statement on March 31st, the PSP party led by Minister Walid Junblat said "the tone by Cardinal Sfair and others were positive during recent contacts, also promising more cooperation to continue the repatriation of the displaced." The PSP questioned why the tone has changed now even by the cardinal as if nothing has been done in this regard. The party called all parties to deal in a responsible manner with this issue and see facts on ground in the villages, instead of being intimidated by the confessional ones who were trying to use thefts that had occurred in Damour to figure it out as targeting only and particularly certain communities. The party questioned why Cardinal Sfair adopted the same tone as those who are confessional enough to cast doubts every now and then. The PSP said thefts have no confessional identity and it is taking place in various parts of the country.

Minister of Information Bassem Sabbaa said he is expecting the people of Mreije, Tahwita, and Lailaki to return back to their homes in a near future, urging them to contact all authorities concerned and stick to their right to return back.

News In Brief

-President Hrawi briefed the Prime Minister on the outcome of his last talks in Damascus Saturday.

- In the annual sermon for France at Bkerke, Cardinal Sfair said the Lebanese are like a plant that can't live out of open air, attached to freedom, and firmly stick to sovereignty, with endeavor for independence. The French ambassador said his country is keen about Lebanon standing on safe side in the ongoing deadlocked peace process. He added that France is attached to Lebanon's common coexistence.

- Lebanon's Western churches celebrated the Easter with sermons all over the country.

- The Russian Ambassador embarked on a one day visit to north Lebanon, for the first time, which took him to Balamand, Tripoli, Bino in Akkar. He was hosted in Akkar by MP Issam Fares.

- The Kurdish community in Lebanon celebrated Saturday the Nourouz Eid under the auspices of Prime Minister Hariri who was represented by Minister Beshara Merhej. The Kurdish Rizkari party called the community members to get ready to the forthcoming municipal elections and obtain cards, and urged the government to issue annex of naturalization law.

- Greek Catholic Bishiop Bustros, ingurating a new church in Meallaka-Fakha in north Baalbec, said the Christians are in Lebanon and Bekaa since the early centuries of Christianity, and they are in Bekaa to build, together with the Muslims, a civilization of brotherhood and love.

- Syrian Druze Sheikh Akl Sheikh Ahmad Hajri visited Chuf and met with Druze religious figures.

- The Muslim Sunni community in Lebanon, amid the execution of three militants who murdered Sheikh Nizar Halabi, with its religious split resurfacing once again, is now divided into two religious camps; the Islamic Society, together with Sheikh Mohammed Ali el Jouzou, Unification movement leader Sheikh Saeed Shaaban, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, and Usbat al Ansar led by the Palestinian Abu Mehjen; and Al Ahbash. With the community official leadership, including politicians and Iftaa, maintaining a neutral silent stand, the community situation is now under spot lights.

Speaking at a commemoration of the three executed militants at Mansouri Mosque in Tripoli Sunday, Muslim Sunni Unification Movement leader Sheikh Saeed Shaaban said he decided to hold Eid El Adha prayers at Beirut martyrs square and will ask for a permission on that. Shaaban assailed the death sentence and execution, and accused the state authority of pushing Al Ahbash into the Islamic arena to strike it. He added that despite all the appeals to President Hrawi to meet him with other clerics and consult on the sentence and execution, he refused, while the Presidential palace's door is open to all visitors local and foreign ones.

- Kataeb deputy leader Karim Pakradouni said at a party meeting that "it is now almost impossible to intimidate the Lebanese and drag them into a religious split and conflict." He expressed relief for the reactions against the remarks given in Tripoli on Sunday. Minister Omar Miskawi said both the remarks at St. Esprit University and in Tripoli are not good for the country and we should realize our responsibility toward the future of Lebanon.

- Palestinian groups in Lebanon celebrated the Land's day in all camps, holding rallies and strikes as well as burning US and Israeli flags denouncing the Israeli settlement policy.

- The Lebanese army command celebrated the graduation of military conscripts-officers at Fayadieh.

- Religious teaching in Lebanon is still controversial. The Government's last decision to make it optional is criticized by many circles. Muslim Sunni Iftaaa called for an obligatory teaching. Minister of Education reserved the decision and called for a review. Minister Omar Miskawi said the decision of the majority of the government was stemmed from a chaotic thinking rather than a thorough study.

-Minister of Agriculture proposed a halt to tobacco plantations in the north and Bekaa saying the southern products have the advantage of good quality, easy marketing, and high price.

- Lebanese pound rate increased up by 0.13 per cent in March.

- In joint statement, MEA pilots and employees reminded the MEA administration of the past agreements and commitments it made on their demands.

Sports Round Up

-Adha football tournament-First phase: Homenmen won over Hikmeh with 2-1, Burj defeated Shabab Sahel 2-0. The Tournament organizer SAFA and Homenmen are top teams of the first group with 3 points for each. Nijmeh and Hikmeh are ranked third with no points. Burj is the top team in the second group, and Ikhaa Aley and Homentmen are ranked second in this group with one point for each.

- President of the Nijmeh club Omar Ghandour accompanied by members of the board and team players visited Prime Minister Hariri and handed him Lebanon's cup-1997 scored by the team.

-Hizbullah Al Manar television station in a party to honor 1996-1997 season's players named Homentmen Wartan as best player for the season with gold ball. Bilal Fleifel of Nijmeh received the best beginner. Best couch shared by Ansar coach Adnan Sharki and Nijmeh Mustafa Makhlufi. Best goal keepers went to Ali Fakih- Ansar first, Hikmeh -George Maasri second, and Amer Abdel Wahab-Riyada wal Adab. Ansar-Peter Prosper was the best scorer. Ahmad Saksouk-Tadamoun-Tyre was the best scorer of the season.

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