News from Beirut April 14  1997 ...Search

Lebanon-Today Its the General Labor Confederation's scuffles and arrests

Government and Labor Confederation's loyalists were engaged yesterday in a heated argument and fist fighting over whether the election for the federation's executive council should take place or not. The showdown was in Sidon where the GLC was compelled to hold Sidon's election. The Sidon showdown was an opening for the GLC election on the 24th of April. National news agency said the elections resulted in a victory for unionist Walid Jueidi (a list headed by pro Hariri), staunchly opponent of the GLC leader Elias Abi Rizk.

At least 41 people were rounded up and beaten by security forces, 26 unionists members and supporters of the Confederation of Laborers and employees union's of the south current leadership were detained. 15 photographers and journalists were also taken away by the troops who were deployed early in the morning to make sure the controversial polls take place. Walid Hamdan, representing the International Labor Organization in the region, was observing the showdown. He said he had informed the ILO offices in Geneva of the "detention and beating of unionists and journalists." He said after returning from Sidon that he will probably "speed up the process of reviewing a complaint by the Lebanese GLC about the Lebanese government policy."

The poll had been disputed for more than a week and the Ministry of Labor refused GLC decision to postpone the poll. The Reason for the postponement was that several elections for the regional unions that provides delegates to the council had not taken place or their results had yet to be officially certified by the Ministry of Labor. For the pro Hariri group, the election allowed it to field the quorum of 35 delegates. Observers say the government had put all  its might and weight in yesterday's election in Sidon and Tripoli.

Both elections results were in favour of government. GLC leader Elias Abu Rizk, having support from various political groups, was facing a strong opposition from various officials notably the Prime Minister and Speaker. He accused the authority of "rigging the election. In what country could such a thing take place, where the government arrests unionist in order to carry out an election," Abu Rizk said.

Head of the Lebanese Journalists Melhem Karam assailed the unabated massacre against the freedom of the press, noting the arrest of 15 journalists banned of covering the elections of south union. He called the Journalists Association for a meeting today.


Lebanese Ali Fakih had denied reports saying the Lebanese in Zaire's diamond town Mbuji-Mayi were detained against their will and were being held hostages unless they pay $700 thousand. Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz had said on Friday that a number of Lebanese were detained there. Fakih said the Zairian immigration officials had told the Lebanese to pay $700,000 tax on diamond trade but they have no such influence to enforce the measure because the rebels are in control of the town. He said the report on hostages is totally untrue adding that the rebels promised to keep the Lebanese safe. Dozens of Lebanese had fled the country as the situation worsened, many had left behind businesses they spent years to build. Most of  the Lebanese who had returned back home say they will go back to Zaire once the situation settles down.

Lebanon-The Touring Officials

President Elias Hrawi was reported to have received yesterday a call from Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. News reports said they have agreed to hold a cabinet meeting on the 22nd of April to discuss the stalled municipal elections. Mr. Hariri told the President that he has a meeting tomorrow with President Jacques Chirac. The Council of Ministers will not hold a session this week since the first day of Adha is on Thursday.

Speaker Nabih Berri continues his visit to Qatar. He met the Prince of Qatar and addressed the Shawra Council. Dispatches said Berri and Qatar's Prince Sheikh Hamad had lengthy dialogue on the Arab democracies and solidarity.

News analysts in Beirut said President Hrawi visits abroad had always been exclusive, consecutive, and frequent to Syria. Mr. Hariri trips abroad are a record. Speaker Nabih Berri is beginning to match with the Prime Minister's trips. The analysts questioned what were the merits of such trips, and said perhaps it is a reflection and result of the local power struggle, an indicator of unabated disagreements, and symptoms of outnumbered crisis.

It  added that every official is trying to invest his move, locally or externally, to enhance his position against his rival, but after all, the image of Lebanon's ruling is damaged because of the many speakers for Lebanon, each working on consolidating his own image on the account of the state image. The analysts have observed that it is very rare for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to undertake a joint trip abroad. Hariri jet's counter is being exhausted of the too many trips. Local observers see he is trying to put off  fires surrounding him or/and avoid a stand still by means of going out.

News analysts said if the municipal elections are not held this year, it won't be held next year which is being for the presidential elections. Another analysts questioned if the political stagnation has any connection with the extension of the President's term, and at the same time recalling that the local and regional circumstances which forced a three years extension is now the same.

Prime Minister Hariri affirmed in Canada that war in Lebanon is over inshallah (in God's willing), but Lebanon is facing some problems which have to be resolved. He said the major problem facing the country is the Israeli occupation of part of its territory. Hariri affirmed " The Lebanese are peaceful and had paid high because of the war and violence, also because of the lawlessness and lack of authority and political decision making." He urged the Lebanese emigrants to contribute to the political life in the hosting countries. Hariri considered the visit to Canada to generate trade exchanges with Lebanon. The Prime Minister continued his visit to Canada, which started last Thursday. On Saturday, he was hosted at a reception in his honor by Lebanon's Ambassador at the conferences palace in Ottawa where around 2,000 people attended. Hariri had left Ottawa to Montreal.

Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz left Saturday to Malta via Paris heading a diplomatic delegation to attend E.M conference. He declared on departure that the delicate point which would face the conference is the peace in the Middle East, and if the conference calls for the resumption of the peace process, the call should be in framework of the Madrid conference and in conformity with its mechanism. Boueiz said Lebanon is not ready to accept any new mechanisms and to renegotiate what had been agreed upon. He said a proposed security pact is premature and it is impossible to join such pact separately from the peace process. Boueiz said the drop down of the peace logic led to the dropping of all restrictions and brakes, and it is difficult to speculate whether Middle East next developments would be violent or remains at stand still.

Cardinal Sfair, A Shelter

Cardinal Sfair warned on Sunday's sermon of using the power which has been vested in rulers for the private interests of either the ruler himself or his loyalists. He said such practice is a serious indicator and could lead to unpredicted impacts. Speaking to a visiting French delegation, Cardinal Sfair briefed them on the local situation and said "following the stormy  war which took away the institutions and the political leaders, for that, the people place their grievances and cases before the patriarch." He said 17 years of war urged his pontiff the Pope to intervene almost permanently by calling the Lebanese to maintain peace in the country, and in that will intention he announced the Synod for Lebanon. "As to the people, they had concealed, thanks to the Synod's influence.

He said his pontiff is coming to sign the synod and announce it. The Synod, undoubtedly, will have reflections on the Lebanese, to make them stay, rebuild their country, regain trust in each other and in their homeland. We need that since around half million Lebanese yet not returned back and hesitant to return, half million displaced are out of their homes with only 20 per cent returned back, and there is the Palestinian problem and other problems you know."

News In Brief

- Besharri based Jubran Khalil Jubran 15 committee member committee has been elected with Lebanese Forces loyalists sweepingly winning all the 15 seats. It was a democratic and peaceful battle, local observers said. The traditional family leaders, first time in 25 years, refrained from running for the committee's membership election and supported instead loyal candidates. The young generation, who did not participate in 1992 and 1996 election, have massively voted in favour of the pro LF members.

- Hizbullah S.G Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking at commemoration of Qana martyrs Sunday said, "the April understanding was a victory to Lebanon, its people, and the resistance. We are not regretting the April understanding but on contrary we have endeavor to it and convinced of it."

- Deputy Speaker Elie Firzli, laying the cornerstone for Qana museum and statue Sunday, said "every martyr had affirmed with martyrdom the one destiny with Syria and the one peace track with it."

- Art, culture activities and exhibitions took place all over Lebanon in the commemoration day of the massacre in places such as Tripoli, Zahle, Nabatieh,Qaraoun in West Bekaa, Sidon.

- Lebanon's central bank issued a bronze medal in the occasion. A bank's release said the medals are on sale and revenue will go to the High Relief Committee. The medal is in commemoration of the 89 children and women martyrs and the 101 wounded of Qana.

- One SLA man killed and two others wounded and airlifted to a hospital in Israel after they passed a land mine along the route leading to Tair Harfa, outpost in the western sector. The Islamic resistance claimed responsibility for the attack. The AMAL Movement claimed responsibility for another attack, launched in the commemoration of Qana, against the SLA outpost at Zimraya inflicting heavy casualties. The group said its men fired three katyusha rockets at the post. Israeli warplanes and helicopters flew over various sectors of Southern Lebanon.

- Former Hizbullah official, Sheikh Subhi Tufeili, said the German court ruling against Iran is a capitulation to USA will. He pointed out, "Everyone should know, German or else, that it is not only our houses that contains glass, and the Moslems should stand side by side same as the Europeans." He repeated the call for the German ambassador to leave the country.

- Islamic Amal leader Hussein Mussawi said each time the USA observes an rapprochement between Iran and Europe, or an existing dialogue between the Islamic world and Europe, it fabricates problems so as to undermine that relationship.

- Minister of Health Suleiman Franjieh said the road is too long for the just medicine. Franjieh was speaking at the opening of the Lebanese Pharmacist Day conference held in Beirut. He noted that the country should have a clear concept on medicine's production, import, distribution, and providing it to every patient with low price and good quality. He added that he has a complete study that he will place it over the government hoping it will decide to implement.

- Minister of Transportation Omar Miskawi said, "We are not seeking to satisfy the Christian opposition in order to achieve the state unity. We should not think too much of the past and try to distinguish ourselves in terms of  demography, because that will not lead to a unity. No one asked the Christians to boycott the 1992 and 1996 elections and dealing seriously with the elections would lead to a result in favour of all. I think the Christian view toward the reality of Lebanon is extremely serious, if it goes as now. There should not be a Christian view and a Moslem one but one view only."

- Liberian Foreign Minister Mony Coptan, now in an official visit to Lebanon, met yesterday in Tripoli, with family members and parents. Coptan, 35 years old, visited hometown Tripoli and obtained civil identity there. He toured the Karami exhibition ground, the el Mina town, and visited governor of  north Lebanon. He said the two people in Lebanon and Liberia are similar in their experience of war, and they both are facing the challenge of  rebuilding their country. The visit of the Lebanese descent Foreign Ministry has revived hopes of some 12,000 Lebanese, who fled the country in early 1996, to regain their property they left behind when they were forced to evacuate. Head of the still remaining Lebanese community in Liberia, about 2,500, George Haddad, said he calls the Lebanese to reinvest in Liberia despite their past losses. The question is whether Liberia is capable financially to compensate the Lebanese.

- World-renowned Tenor Jose Carrera, after a two month delay due to his father's death, sang at the "Forum de Beyrouth" for 7,000 enthusiastic audience on Saturday. Tickets were sold for $65 to $200. Carrera said it was "an extraordinary audience", and His performance lasted four hours. The original concert was planned for Valentine's day. He visited the Bone Marrow Transplantation Center at Makassed Hospital in Beirut to meet Leukemia patients. Carrera suffered from the same disease in 1988, and since then he actively supports patients like him. He founded Jose Carrera International Leukeimia Foundation. He said he was impressed by warmth of  the Lebanese people.

Sports Round Up

- Singaporean football team's goal in the 94th minute gave them a draw against Lebanon at the game yesterday at Burj Hammoud stadium. Some 10,000  fans attended the game. It was the opening of the World Cup elimination of Asia group seven. The Lebanese players were in full control but the Singaporean goalkeeper put them off. Three minutes into the second half  Wael Nazha scored Lebanon's only goal from a penalty after a foul against  Babkin. four minutes after the normal time, Singapore equalized with a fierce shot 30 meters into the top right corner giving Lebanese goalkeeper Ali Fakih no chance to catch it. Singapore English coach said that the game went according to plan, and added that it is good to have an away draw. "We  cannot head the group but we can make it very difficult for Kuwait."

Lebanese team's coach Yorath said "the players missed many chances to score and now we have to wait for the other results in the group."

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