News from Beirut April 29 1997 ...Search

Pope's Visit

Papal Nuncio Pablo Puente announced today after a meeting with president Elias Hrawi some slight changes on the schedule of his pontiff visit to Lebanon 10 days ahead. The changes include an official reception to his pontiff including national anthems and relevant honorary protocols, to be held at Beirut airport instead of the presidential palace, upon request of president Hrawi and others. Puente said his pontiff will be received as usual in every visit abroad as head of the Catholic church not as head of the Vatican's state. Lebanon's presidency will extend formal invitations to receive his pontiff to former presidents, prime ministers, MPs, ministers, and spiritual leaders. Puente visited Greek Orthodox bishop Elias Audi inviting the Greek Orthodox community bishops and clerics to welcome his pontiff.

-Prime minister Rafic Hariri called on phone Cardinal Sfair and discussed the preparations underway for his pontiff's visit.

-Moslem spiritual leaders Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani and Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine said after a joint meeting today they wish to meet his pontiff together and not in separate.

GLC new leadership

- GLC new leader Ghanim Zughbi and the GLC board, after protocol visits today to three top officials, said he is seeking unity and dialogue, resumption of the dialogue with the political authority, working on the unity of all labors of Lebanon, and trying to have dialogue with the former leadership. He discussed with prime minister Rafic Hariri the labor union long-standing demands and agreed to hold series of meetings to see to phased implementation. Mr. Hariri said the government stand on labors demands had been always steady, seeking stable relations and backing of  industry and agriculture in order to create more job opportunities. He asked the speaker a draft bill to fund building a labor house, also draft bills related to the labors demands. The GLC new leadership is now working on calling the international and Arab labor organizations to report the last developments and poll. The GLC board decided to hold a reception at Bristol hotel on the labor day on 6th May.

Monitoring committee - South

- The 5 nation cease-fire monitoring committee meeting today at Naqoura since 11.00 Am. to discuss two complaints submitted by Israel and Lebanon adjourned at 8.00 p.m. today evening. The committee meeting was inconclusive and will resume tomorrow. Lebanon complaint the Israeli firing, from tits outposts at Kaukaba and Ahmadieh, at a school bus on the main road of Qilya-Dallafeh in west Bekaa Sunday, hitting the bus carrying school boys 4-11 years old  but not inflicting casualties. The Israeli complaint accused the Lebanese resistance of violating the ceasefire by shelling an outpost inside Israel's territory last Friday wounding two Israeli soldiers.

Tension in south Lebanon is mounting since this morning. Israeli and SLA artillery shelled Jabal Safi and outskirts of Nabatieh town. The Islamic resistance claimed responsibility of an attack against the SLA outpost at  Kassaret el Ouroush saying it inflicted heavy casualties. Israeli helicopters flew over beaufort castler and vicinity, and Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over Nabatieh. This evening the main road Nabatieh- Iqlim Toffah was cut under the intensity of shelling.

Parliament & Speaker Berri

-The Parliamentary meeting including former premiers Hoss, Karami, former speaker Husseini, and MPs Harb, Beydoun, Lahoud, rejected categorically today the extension of the parliament term, saying they would go far to avert such move, even appealing to the Constitutional Council. The meeting expressed regret for the government intervention in the GLC poll. It also noticed worrying economical indicators including mass unemployment, weakened purchasing power, increase of public debt during first quarter, and the high budget deficit which went far beyond the anticipation.

- One week after the government decided extending the parliament term for 8 months, a political row is now heightened and a mounting opposition is taking place. President Elias Hrawi is quoted saying he does not mind a parliament self initiative to shorten its term 4 months or dissolve itself before summer, so that parliament elections can be held within those two choices. The president also said that not holding elections in summer was a persisting demand of the economists. Government sources quoted saying the government would send to the parliament a draft bill of two articles, one cutting the term 4 months and another extending it 8 months, and giving the parliament the choice to pass either one. Speaker Nabih Berri is reported to be tending to refuse the extension, wondering its timing, denying his prior knowledge on the step, considering it premature or early, and arguing the argument on the issue before the draft bill is received by parliament. Berri questioned "who said that the parliament will agree to that", expecting the parliamentary liberation bloc "he is presiding" of taking a decision against the extension, regardless of the legality and constitutionality of the move or not. The speaker thinks the solution is through laying a parliamentary election law for the year 200, stipulating shortening the coming parliament term 8 months or less, so that the elections will be automatically held in spring not summer.

-GLC-New Leadership

- Speaker Nabih Berri quoted arguing "would the labor GLC election be democratic if the communists with their political allies won, and not democratic if the ticket backed by AMAL and its allies won the poll". He questioned "who said that the new GLC leadership would be a government's puppet, perhaps the contrary, and perhaps the new leadership would be more cohesive and more determined on the labor demands". Mr. Berri said the former leadership accepted to serve as a shield hiding political forces that aim to strike at the regime and undermine the state drive. He said the new leadership will raise at its first meeting a list of priorities-demands, including socio-economic council which had been shelved, price index, social security, high cost of living, low salaries, and rising up the minimum salary. Speaker Berri said the GLC new leadership will give the government a reasonable phase of time to respond to these demands otherwise it will be obliged to struggle with all the possible means in framework of the democratic system. News reports said the speaker's declaration is drawing a platform for the GLC new leadership.

News In Brief

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri is to leave to South Korea in an official visit after the visit of his pontiff to Lebanon.

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri, who visited Damascus Saturday and held talks with Syrian officials, assured that relations among officials are good, and said such issue should not be a subject of controversy . Hariri said there will be a new page of cooperation with the GLC new leadership. He described president Elias Hrawi as "courageous historic man who took dare decisions and the history will be fair to him more than us".

-Speaker Nabih Berri said a parliament general session will be held after his pontiff visit to discuss government policies.

- Political analysts in Beirut said the situation in south Lebanon is expected to heat up along with US chairing the monitoring committee. It said the escalation would be a reflex of Iran-west tension.

- Speaker Nabih Berri called for a united religious education school book for both private and public schools same as one national education book.

- Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz arrived to Tunisia Sunday and was received by his counterpart.

-Lebanon council of ministers is to convene tomorrow at government house at Sanayeh under prime minister Hariri with 43 item on agenda.

- Cardinal Sfair urged on Sunday "a review of what we have reached of bad situation in order to avert it before it is too late". He noted the "tendency to destroy institutions, dismantle the civil society, and strike the democracy". He denounced the postponement of the municipal elections, and the intervention in the GLC poll aimed to lend support to one side against the other.

- Greek Orthodox Patriarch Aghnatios Hazim, at Damascus cathedral on Monday, in a Damascus radio broadcasted sermon, wished that "Lebanon be a final country for all Lebanese, without exclusions and reservations". He praised president Hafez Assad and his stands.

- Parliament MPs Henri Shedid and Emile Nawfal, both named as would be MPs loosing their seats in an expected ruling by the Constitutional Council, criticized prime minister Rafic Hariri. The council is expected to announce rulings in few days time.

- The Maronite League's executive council endorsed amendments on the league's  internal order during a 6 hour meeting on Monday.

- Hizbullah delegation under S.G Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is in Tehran few days ago in a visit aimed to discuss the situation in Lebanon and to attend a seminar on Qana massacre organized by Iran foreign ministry.

- Ex president Amin Gemayel now visiting Brazil has ended his visit to Sao Paolo and met with the Lebanese community. He also visited Reo and said "Lebanon is struggling for survival and for the survival of freedom and democracy.

- 46 Lebanese emigrants detained in Zaire reported arriving to South Africa Sunday and planning to return back to Lebanon. News agencies quoted one of them saying they paid $250 thousand ransom to rebels for their release.

- Maronite Bishop Tanios Khoury in two sermons in Chuf Sunday augurated reparation of two churches in Jadra ansd Barouk urging coexitence.

- Lebanon director general of the surete generale Rimon Ruphail in a recent note to airport and border centers allowed these offices to issue entry visas to nationals of the following countries; Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxumburg, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Uk, Switzerland, Norway, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Nationals of these countries who proved to be coming to Lebanon to work as artists are excluded of this note.

- The Armenian community commemorated in Byblos the 82nd remembrance of the Armenian massacres victims. Speakers said ignoring the community in the state administration's appointments is not anymore acceptable.

Sports Round Up

- Lebanon football team defeated Libya 2-0 in a friendly game at Burj Hammoud stadium, in preparation for the game with Kuwait on 8th May in Kuwait in the primary for Asian group 7 of the world cup 16.

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