At its first meeting yesterday, the recently formed 8 man ministerial committee was inconclusive. Another meeting next Tuesday is to finalize text of proposals which will be referred to the Council of Ministers. Head of the committee, Minister of Interior Michel Murr, said all members unanimously agreed to holding the municipal elections because it is a popular demand. He added that the committee members will review various remarks given by the MPs during the last plenary session and lay down their assessments. He contended that 70 per cent of the last draft bill is now meaningless because of the stipulated deadlines that had to be changed. Murr said the committee will recommend holding of the elections, and wishes that the government fixes a new date for it.
Murr pointed out that the elections were designed to take place in accordance with the 1977 law, including only the present existing municipalities and mayors. "If there will be changes on the law, such as establishing new municipalities for each village with 500 person, the number will be 420 municipality more, additional to the present 1,000" Murr announced.
He said the same would be applied if more mayors are to be elected, that is after dividing towns with more than 3,000 population to quarters and one mayor for each. He proceeded by saying that there are 430 villages with such population. Murr said the three presidents will meet, perhaps before the Pope's visit. President Hrawi is going to receive Speaker Nabih Berri next week and Prime Minister Hariri after his return.
Minister of Agriculture Shawki Fakhoury, an ally to President Hrawi and a member of the committee, said before the meeting that "the committee is trying to rescue the elections if this is possible. In my opinion the elections will not take place in summer because of the pretext of tourism season, neither in spring, and perhaps it would be held in the year 2005". Fakhoury added, "What happened in the parliament has indefinitely destroyed the hope of holding elections, at least in the foreseeable future." He contended that he is a representing himself as a minister and MP in the committee, not representing the President.
President Elias Hrawi was quoted telling his visitors that the MPs should fulfill their promises and lend their support to holding elections. He also said that the people should tell the MPs they are accountable to them. He reiterated that he adheres to the constitutional stipulations.
NLP leader Douri Chamoun said President Hrawi's adherence to the constitution is only on the surface. He added that he cannot see the President sticking really to the constitution, arguing that he had accepted extending his term, and accepting the non constitutional parliament elections law. Chamoun said the opposition is ready for the elections.
Former Prime Minister Omar Karami said, "Let us stop the ongoing argument. Let the government meet and decide on elections. We are in favour of holding elections. I do not agree to holding the elections neither in summer nor in autumn, because it really cripple the summer season under such economical hardships. If it could be held in June, why not."
Observers see the President's recent press conference as unprecedented. They said it is first time that the President is speaking over an issue that was disputed among the top officials. The usual customary T.V addresses by the presidents were in specific occasions with few exceptions. President Hrawi's T.V addresses and interviews, and the press conference, have marked a record in number and size. Former Prime Ministers in Lebanon said in an inquiry they do not object that.
Kataeb Deputy President Karim Pakradouni, on the contrary, was critical to the sweeping outnumbered media show ups. He said too many shows damage the image and prestige of the President, also damaging were the many proposals Hrawi made in public and that were not endorsed.
In the first official visit by a Lebanese Premier since 1954, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri arrived to Ottawa-Canada yesterday on his private jet coming from Paris. Hariri declared that Canada wants Lebanon liberated through the implementation of the UN resolution 425. Canadian Prime Minister said all parties want peace and it is a pleasure to Canada to be a participant in such a process.
Historic background said the Lebanese Ibrahim Abu Nader, first to travel from Lebanon to Canada in 1882, did not imagine that time he is initiating a large scale emigration to the world second largest country after Russia.
According to Canadian statistics, the Lebanese community in Ottawa and its suburb is the second in number after the British. The Arab language, consequently, became the third spoken language after the English and French. The Lebanese emigrants in Canada, not exceeding 1,000 in the early 20th century, rose to 15,000 in 1950, and are now nearly 250,000.
Lebanese had made great successes in various fields, including physicians, lawyers, engineers and university lecturers. Some Lebanese have political and administrative senior posts, such as membership of the Senate and House of Commons. Names include Federal parliament member Pierre Debbaneh, deputies Mark Assaad, Mark Harb, Paul Zayd, also Alberta Parliament members Hussein Shadi and Moy Emeiri, Quebec Parliament member George Farah, and the former Prime Minister of Prince Edward Island and now member of the high court Joe Giz.
- News tit-bit said President Elias Hrawi received calls, local and external, in which he continued to deny that accusation that "either the elections be held or I go home."
- A minister close to Prime Minister Hariri outlined remarks concerning Hrawi's press conference. He said Hrawi-Hariri disagreement is not over the parliament's move, but it is rather on issues relating to the Ministry of Finance, contracts, and Hariri's tours abroad where he is given the same importance as a head of state. He said Hrawi wanted to neutralize Speaker Berri by affirming at the conference that he won't touch on the term of Speaker. "The issues raised at the conference were not important that much and could have been resolved at the Council of Ministers instead of introducing it as a government crisis." The crisis was aggravated to an extent that President Hrawi would issue the draft bill on elections within the 40 day time limit, consequently, the Council of Ministers would not be held, unless wounds of the two presidents heel.
-Minister Nadim Salem said yesterday he is "wishing the municipal elections to be held at earliest, and when all the political trends want to go into the state, we should not stand against."
- Coming back from the nonaligned conference in New Delhi, Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz said the Arabs and particularly Lebanon have gained what was required from the conference. He added that the Israeli obstructionist policies should be shown up now and put under spotlights to avoid being accused of undermining the peace process. Liberian Foreign Minister who is visiting Lebanon for 5 days and who arrived together with Boueiz said Liberia and Lebanon have in common the war that had struck the two countries, and the hard task of rebuilding their two countries and achieve national conciliation.
- An SLA tank at Houla's main inside the security zone was hit directly yesterday by a resistance Sagre rocket fired from Shakra valley. The tank's personnel narrowly escaped the attack. The SLA fired artillery shells at the valley in retaliation. SLA sources said an army patrol discovered yesterday three unexploded blasts planted along the road between Rihan and Sojod. Islamic resistance claimed responsibility for the Houla tank attack saying its men inflicted casualties in the enemy ranks.
- Press seminar on the present situation in Lebanon, with series of crisis including Constitutional Council, tapping telephones, municipal elections, Lebanese University, audio-visual, all are indicating possible crisis. The conferees said the malpractice and malfunction of the authority led to the collapse of the idea of a state. They point out the authority is trading an external pan Arab stand for an internal dictatorship or tyranny. They pointed out that the authority is going unabated curving and crippling the institutions to serve interests of the troika which has not been buried yet. They see that opposition groups should join together on the basis of recognizing each other and recognizing too the diversity so that they can step over their current disablement.
- Ambassador of Japan, after a visit to speaker Nabih Berri, said his government is giving the issue of Red Army members, now under arrest in Lebanon, a great importance and follow it with great interest. The ambassador, expressing full respect to Lebanon's judiciary and laws, affirmed his country is awaiting their trial so that it can ask an extradition " and consequently the Japanese judiciary can take the appropriate action." He discussed with Speaker Berri the bilateral relations and a visit by a Japanese parliament delegation to Lebanon on the 29th of April.
- US delegate to the 5 nation cease-fire monitoring group David Greenly said the monitoring committee's work is rather technical not political and does not have the influence to prevent military clashes. Greenly and US Ambassador Richard Jones visited President Hrawi and Speaker Berri. He said the monitoring group is temporary, and he is hopeful a political progress would be made, so that the need for the April's understanding and consequently the monitoring, would be over. He added in the absence of such progress the committee will carry on its mission with the best it can.
- UK Ambassador declared in Beirut that the Middle East peace is inevitable. "all are agreed to peace but disagreed on the form of direction," he added.
- Batroun MP Butors Harb said he is against postponement of the municipal elections , because democracy is incomplete unless elections are held on all levels starting with mayors. "I think we cannot graduate new leaders without elections", Harb said. Harb said the Pope's visit is not aimed to consecrate the de facto situation, neither he is coming to seal and stamp the prevailing situation in Lebanon, and he won't close his eyes and turn to an idle witness. "His pontiff is a world power that witness the right", Harb said.
- Ministry of Interior announced that it is preparing an annex of the decree 5247 on naturalization. Applicants who enjoy the required conditions can proceed to Jdeide Serail to apply from the 14th of April to the 14th of May. The Ministry said applying in person is the rule. All former applications are invalid. The Ministry also added that no charge is imposed except the official stamps.
- Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is to hold a press conference today in the first anniversary of the April's blitz. Hizbullah's delegation continues touring on various parties and groups calling for a joint action and vitalization of Lebanon's political life.
- Lebanon wants to ease terms of the European Union before engaging in the Mediterranean-European Union partnership agreement which was supposed to be signed before at the end of 1996.
- Tele Liban station has been elected yesterday as a member of the Francophone International Council in charge of coordinating between the world Francophone T.V stations.
- Jubran Khalil Jubran National Heritage committee is to be elected on the 13th of April. 43 family candidates and 2 of the minority are running for the posts. Besharri MPs and dignitaries in Jubran's hometown affirmed there will be no intervention. Why only Besharri town residents elect the committee? The response is that this is in compliance with a will laid down by Jubran himself and later by Mary Huskel.
- Moslem Fatwa Council, the Moslem Shiite Council, and Mufti Abdel Amir Kabalan announced that they decline receiving congratulations in the Adha occasion because of the prevailing situations.
- Adha holiday is on the 17,18,and 19th of April. Easter holiday on the 25 and 28 of April, government release said.
- Roy Kammoun, a Lebanese teenager, who has sunk in Nahr Ibrahim strong water falls last Thursday is still missing despite daily efforts by the civil defense and divers to locate him along the river.
- New York based watchdog Human Rights Monitoring Organization in a fax from N.Y questioned for whose interest is Lebanon's restrictions on the audio-visual media. The organization described the new media law as an assault on the free expression and media plurality. It asserted that only four T.V stations are left in Lebanon, all have connection with senior officials who have links with Syria.
- Under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri, represented by MP Anwar Khalil, Lebanese detainees and released prisoners, were honored at a rally in Southern Lebanon. Some 500 detainees and released prisoners were participating. MP Anwar el Khalil said in a quick review of the Israeli assaults since last April include 69 air raids and daily searches, 11,670 artillery shells fired by Israel, 46 martyrs, 61 wounded, 77 detained, and 142 demolished houses.
- Snow fall was at 650 meter on Thursday in an unprecedented weather that is hitting Lebanon and east of the Mediterranean.
- G.Orthodox Bishop George Khodre visited Qana village where the scene of last April's massacre. He said, "We are attached more to Southern Lebanon and Qana since the occupation occurred."
- Lebanon's Foreign Minister decorated France's ambassador on the eve of his farewell departure, ending his service years in Lebanon.
- Adha 10th tournament: Homenmen was defeated yesterday by Nijmeh 1-4 at Safa stadium.
- President and delegation from the Ansar Club, including Selim Diyab, visited the Nijmeh Club at Tarik Jedideh to extend congratulations for the new Nijmeh board and the cup of Lebanon for this season.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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