News from Beirut April 15  1997 ...Search


Reports today said that two Hizbullah fighters were killed in a 3-hour battle with Israeli commandos who infiltrated into the Froun-Ghandourieh villages out of the Israeli occupied zone. The Israeli information said the commando force is a special unit that was given the task of attacking and destroying the resistance. The Islamic resistance men repelled the attack and clashed for hours with the raiding commando. Israeli helicopters rushed to the scene to airlift the attackers. Resistance sources said there were definitely casualties among the attackers.

Israel's radio said yesterday that the Jewish state lodged a complaint to the 5 nation cease-fire monitoring committee amid the explosion of a blast on April 13 in the western sector of the security zone in which a Lebanese was killed and two SLA men were wounded.

Lebanon-GLC, Decisive Show Down

Government justification for the disputed poll of the GLC in  Sidon, where security forces detained many unionists and journalists, were not persuasive. The GLC crisis turned to be political and observers see it  as a decisive battle between the government and the General Labor Confederation GLC. They also predict that the government is willing to split the union in order to bring a loyal entity, after it had succeeded in postponing the municipal elections, and exerted as much pressure to force the head of the Constitutional Council to resign. In general its plan is to confiscate any and every democratic expression in the country. The impact of Sidon show down is that the political society here has been already split between opposition groups supporting the GLC, and other forces loyal to government which got ready to support those unionists who are at odds with the GLC leadership. The question now is whether the GLC would split itself as a result? It is recalled that the relation between state officials and the GLC had been cut and severed a while back, and the political authority refused to fix the date to receive the GLC leadership, as it was banning demonstrations and accusing the union of politicizing demands instead, namely after a meeting at the Coral Beach hotel, and GLC leader Elias Abu Rizk running for parliament election against the Minister of Labor Assaad Herdan.

President Elias Hrawi, in the absence of the Prime Minister and the Speaker, received yesterday Minister Herdan and Sidon MP Bahiya Hariri. The GLC is preparing a series of moves aimed at mobilizing the opposition both in Sidon and Beirut in support of its demands as the GLC election takes place on the 24th of April. The secretary general of the International Union of Arab Labors Syndicates Hassam Jammam arrived to Beirut yesterday. He met with the World Labor Organization regional representative Walid Hamdan who was in Sidon. He also met with the Minister of Labor Assaad Herdan and is scheduled to meet today with President Hrawi.

Reactions to Sidon's show down continued in Beirut as Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss said what happened in Sidon is the "ugliest oppression." MP Najah Wakim demanded that the government explains its intervention. The National Parliamentary Meeting questioned if the present government can restore stability in the country. The leading comment today raised the point of "whether the last democratic institution in Lebanon, the GLC, could surmount its strife, or it is the steam roller once again."

Lebanon's Officials, Whereabouts

Prime Minister Hariri will be back home today after meeting with President Jacques Chirac in Paris. Speaker Nabih Berri is also coming back today from Qatar. The 8 man ministerial committee on municipal elections is holding a meeting at noon today under the leadership of Minister of Interior Michel Murr to find  a solution to the stalled elections. The committee is to lay down a proposal which will be placed over to the government next meeting. Lebanon's secondary and LU students are on strike today in support to the LU and its teacher's demands. Prime Minister Hariri is to be facing upon arrival these issues.

The Speaker will too face President Hrawi's persistence on holding the municipal elections and to fix a date for a general session of the parliament to discuss a vote of confidence asked by MP Najah Wakim.

Mr. Hariri urged Canadian businessmen to invest in Lebanon and said Lebanon is a business center in the Middle East namely for the Canadians. He was speaking at a conference on investments opportunities in Lebanon and said his government is preparing Beirut to become an economical, commercial and financial center for the Middle East. Hariri said Lebanon is a beneficiary of the peace in the region and Lebanon is the most safest place in the world more than any other country. He said Lebanon has signed an agreement aimed at establishing an Arab free trade market which is going to be implemented in 1998 but he said there are many problems ahead for such move. Mr. Hariri said also that "few hundreds had destroyed the country but we are responsible of its rebuilding."

News analysts today said President Hrawi's recent stands on elections are due to his exigencies to change the present government in order to have a loyal majority cabinet, or otherwise his term may not be extended until the year 2000.

The conclusion is that the year and half of President Hrawi remaining term in office would witness so much stagnation and maneuvers, placing Lebanon before varied uncertainties.

Another analysts said the Pope visit next month is not going to be used or exploited. The idea that his pontiff's visit to Lebanon is aimed at resolving its crisis is not a realistic thought, the analysts said. They also said that in any case the visit will reflect a positive atmosphere and shall have moral and international reflections. A media gossip said some observers still expect what might happen and lead to the postponement of his pontiff's visit.

News analysts said today the present Dueika Hariri-Berri is planning to control teachers leagues after finishing control of the GLC.

Qana Massacre. The Commemoration

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, in the first commemoration of Qana massacre which took place during his term in the UN, said the US veto against renewing his mandate was in fact earlier to Qana. The general idea is that Mr. Ghali has paid off his post for a UN report on the "Grapes of Wrath's" and Qana massacre. He said he was aware of a show down in the region or perhaps an explosion, adding that instability is sometimes more dangerous than military confrontations.

Liberia's Foreign Minister visited the scene of last year's massacre at Qana. He denounced the Israeli continued aggressions and regretted the losses in Southern Lebanon.

Lebanese "Grapes of Unity" organizers are going to stage a unionist march on the 18th of April off the national museum in Beirut.

Tens of seminars, rallies, marches, statements appear everyday in local media hailing the Lebanese and southerners' steadfastness, assailing Israel and its occupation, reproducing images of the massacre in T.V.s and papers.

News In Brief

- President Hrawi received yesterday Syrian Brig Ghazi Kanaan. Among other visitors were MP Bahiya Hariri who presented the Hariri Foundation's booklet titled "The unforgotten Qana" published in three languages and addressed to international public opinion. Hariri asked for an investigation over the arrest of  journalists in Sidon and said she is following up the case.

- Cardinal Sfair received yesterday the Egyptian Ambassador who said his country welcomes the Pope's visit to Lebanon. Former Foreign Minister Fouad Boutros, after a visit to Bkerke, said all Middle East concerned states will pay off for the stalled peace process and Lebanon will be in the lead. He said this is because Lebanon is not immune against such pay off, and what is important now is that Lebanon will not pay high.

- After a meeting yesterday, the National Parliamentary Meeting including Hoss,  Karami, Husseini, Harb, Lahoud and Beydoun called the government to take its hands off the labor unions and syndicates, and to hold the municipal and mayoral elections. They criticized the government for "not abiding by the constitution's provisions in its daily practices, something cast doubts over its ability to restore stable situation in the country."  The meeting called the government to "treat the current deterioration regarding media, personal, and syndicate freedoms, also the social situation, otherwise to quit and give up its responsibility."

- Liberia's Foreign Minister, departing today after a 5 day visit, called all Lebanese who evacuated Liberia to return back. Yesterday, he visited the AUB, Maghdouche town south of Sidon, and was hosted by the Ministry of immigration.

- Former Foreign Minister Fouad Butroes, after a visit to Cardinal Sfair, expected a solution which would satisfy all parties regarding the municipal elections. Boutros said "a way out of the elections impasse is under preparation." He rejected any compromises regarding the resignation of the head of Constitutional Council Wajdi Mallat, adding that "compromises on judiciary means farewell to that judiciary."

- State Minister Elias Hanna said the 8 man ministerial committee is expected to finalize today a possible concept on the municipal elections and send it to the Council of Ministers including a date for the elections. He said the government will not be far from the public demand of elections but with the best ways to hold it, namely preserving the national peace which should prevail, and the national balance which we gave it 6 years to grow and don't want it to fail.

- President of the Kataeb party George Saadeh, presiding over the polite bureau and the central council, cautioned of the risky attitude which has been practiced in Sidon's GLC election. Saadeh said what happened in Sidon assured the will and intention to finish out the last freedom stronghold and black out facts before the eyes of the media. He said the assault against journalists and syndicates leaders is "shameful and strongly denounced." He also cautioned of ignoring the views and stands of a major part of the people, "obliged to say the Christians in particular", who are beginning to feel hopeless of participation on national levels.

- The Constitutional Council head's resignation, now entering its third week, is at stand still. The council did not schedule a meeting since then.  Two members who are out in Paris did not return yet. Another reason given to the resignation of Mallat this time is the tapping of  his telephone lines including his residence one.

- The Maronite League's S.G Nimatallah Abi Nasre, in reactions to remarks given by Minister of Transportation Omar Miskawi, said Miskawi called the Christians not to think too much of the past, but the present is not a relieve for them either.  Abi Nasre said, "Who is missing the past is usually worried of the future and aware of the present. The present which Minister Miskawi is proud of, is the one in with a public debt was $2,774 million in 1992, jumping to $21,886 million at the end of 1996, an increase of 365 per cent and a L.L 7 million debt on every Lebanese." He said all that public spending is under the pretext of reconstruction which after 5 years is still at the beginning. He argued if the present is the one in which general and private freedoms are oppressed. Abi Nasre argued too if this the "present which is going to let us forget our past."

- Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said yesterday that "the Pope visit to Lebanon will not be expressing any political case, either negative or positive, given the fact that he is approaching the Christian situation and generally the Lebanese situation as a message, and considering the diversity here as good." Fadlallah added that the Vatican policy is known to be discouraging Lebanon's isolation from the Arab neighborhood, and not encouraging complications with Syria, though with some reservations on some details. He concluded by saying that the visit will not go out of line of the Vatican's policy. He said, "I imagine the Moslems were always open to Christianity, and they were not far from openness toward the Pope and the Vatican. For that, the Moslem's welcome of the visit is natural, especially after Pope's address of common coexistence nature, in which he was not centering on a special particular group, despite his being responsible of this group." Sayyed Fadlallah added, "I think the visit is rather spiritual than political, because the present hard circumstances in the region is not possible to allow a change in Lebanon, neither on the political level in Lebanon nor in the region, but it would give some spirit, tranquillity, openness, and this is a big gain".

- The National Syrian Socialist Party NSSP called for a national media law on national basis. The party said the halting of normalization of relation with Israel should be completed by all Arab reinforcement of  the boycott law against Israel, to revive the logic or motto of destined struggle, to announce halt to the peace talks indefinitely, and to back Damascus which is standing against the enemy schemes.

- Lebanon Foreign Ministry S.G Zafer el Hassan confirmed that his Ministry is calling France, USA, Belgium, and South Africa to help protect the Lebanese in Zaire and evacuate them out of the risky areas there. He said all those calls received positive responses and the Lebanese will be helped by the USA when it decides to evacuate its nationals. He estimated the number of Lebanese in Zaire at present by 1,200. Asked about news that alleged that some 46 Lebanese are held hostages in the Mbuji-May town in Zaire and ordered to pay a ransom of $750,000, El Hassan said he heard such news but his ministry has no accurate information on that, adding that perhaps those are there and not allowed to go out, but he is not informed if they are really captives or detained. He said the USA would decide dispatching means to evacuate foreigners within this week and the Lebanese will be benefiting from such a facility. El Hassan said Lebanon is coordinating with France which can help in the capital Kinshasa, so far calm, but also will be posed because of the rebels advance. The Lebanese should be gathered at the Lebanese school known as the "Arab Cultural Center" in Kinshasa, and from there, if need to, they will be evacuated with the help of the French. As to Mbuji-May, Lebanon has asked the USA, in case it is going to evacuate non-Americans, to include the Lebanese nationals among the evacuees. He said there are no contacts at present with the Lebanese in Mbuji-May, and the only contacts are via Kinshasa, Brazaville where there is a Lebanese committee in Anfere.

- Lebanese Journalists Association initiate their sue case yesterday before judicial  authority for assaulting journalists in Sidon. Minister of Information Bassem Sabbaa and many others denounced the incident and said it is not justified under any security pretext.

- PSP party under Walid Junblat called the Chuf residents not to pay electricity bills because bills are becoming intolerable burden, hazardous in calculating consumption, additional tax, and because of electricity ongoing cuts. The party branch in Chuf threatened civil rebellion if the violations are not halted.

- Hizbullah MP Hussein Haj Hassan said Hizbullah is not against developing the tourism sector in Baalbeck as long as it is within the limits of general ethics. He said it is no problem if Baalbeck Festivals are held but Hizbullah will not accept nude or casino style performances. On other hand, he urged the government to provide tourism infrastructure including lighting, roads, rest house, cleaning, restaurants and hotels etc.

Sports Round Up

- Lebanon will be the host next year for a Formula One car racing at Hariri Beirut circuit. Khaled Taki, the planner, said Prime Minister Hariri gave a written approval for the plan. The distance is 6,7 km, the longest for such race. Taki expects the race to attract 250,000 and makes a revenue of  $600 million. A prior testing Formula-3 is necessary for qualifying to Formula -1 is going to take place on November 2 and another in 1998. Taki said if the World Union agree to consider Beirut Formula-1 a stage for World Championship it is going to take place on November 1998 and afterward it will become a yearly tradition.

- Lebanon's Olympic Committee member Tony Khoury ended his visit to Athens where he was briefed on Greek preparations to host the Olympic games in the year 2004.

- Lebanon volleyball Cup finals: Riyadi Ghazir is going to play for the 5th time with Shabiba Bushrieh, contesting for the championship after equalizing yesterday at Jounieh stadium 2-2.

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