News from Beirut May 13 1997 ...Search

Pope-Lebanon, Assassination Attempt Foiled

-Four cables from the Italian interpol on Friday May 9th warning of a conspiracy attempting the assassination of his pontiff during the visit to Lebanon were released today. The Lebanese interpol received the cabled information from the Italian counterpart, including one cable passed to the Italians from the Canadian police. The first cable was general and not specific. The second cable claimed that an assassination attempt would be staged by Jaish Allah(God's army). At 4.36 p.m. Friday a third cable said the "jihad group", a Palestinian-Islamic organization according to the cable, intends to assassinate the Pope.

At 9.00 p.m. same day another cable, with different information, said the Hamas group has purchased 24 Chinese made missiles through a Chinese Mafia, including 14 land to air missiles, and it would be used in assassinating the Pope. Lebanon president, prime minister, interior minister, and the army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud withheld the information for 48 hours in order to avert failure of the visit. The early assessment of the objectives of such cables, also whether it is factual or not, led to the conclusion it would be aiming to sabotage the visit, discredit Lebanon's security agencies and cause panic among officials and the public. Maximum security measures were enforced all along the stations of the visit, also total mobility of the security agencies and the intelligence, including an assistance from the Syrian intelligence was in effect in a preemptive precautionary move.

-Lebanon interior ministry statement today said the Lebanese interpol  received Friday cables from European interpols saying his pontiff would be the target of an assassination attempt by unspecified groups that would use missiles. The statement said Lebanon senior officials were notified of the incoming information and the Lebanese army command took immediate security measures to avert the action. It said the early analysis of the information passed to Lebanon was that enemy hostile intelligence could be behind the cables in order to foil the visit.

-The ministry statement today came after news reports published specific details of the attempt and said at one of the stages the chopper airlifting his pontiff was ordered to change its flight direction and land at the airport from seaside.

- President Elias Hrawi received May 12 copy of the apostolic guidance signed by the Pope also a Lebanese flag signed by him as memorial of the visit to Lebanon. The two gifts were handed by bishops Roland Abu Jawdeh and Boulos Mattar. Bishop Abu Jawdeh said another flag signed by the Pope will be kept at the national museum, and a third is kept at Bkerke. He said the apostolic guidance has been laid down not only for the Christians but for all Lebanon, consequently there should be openness and dialogue. Abu Jawdeh said the guidance is a large workshop which already started. Hrawi cabled Italian prime minister to express thanks for the Italian help extended during the visit of the Pope and which helped success of the visit. He received Greek Orthodox patriarch Hazim and bishop Elias Audi.

-Bkerke circles is discussing a visit to south Lebanon by Patriarch Sfair as one of the results of the apostolic guidance and Pope's attitude.

- On his way back to Rome on board of an MEA plane, his pontiff did not sleep during the 3 hour flight, asked for Lebanese white wine, served Lebanese dishes, and blessed the Lebanese captain and the crew also Lebanese security men who escorted him on his way back to Rome. He said "Lebanon is in my heart and mind and always prays for its safety".

-Gen. Michel Aoun speaking in a radio interview said the visit of the Pope has placed the Lebanese problem in right framework as all the parties spoke on evacuation of armies, the missing peace and social justice, also on the restricted freedoms, all that indicated that the Lebanese problem is at a stand still. Aoun said the nature of the visit was agreed upon with the Lebanese authority and Syria and "as viewers we can't specify the merit of that agreement". He said he was very happy for the massive welcome and noted he urged his supporters to participate despite his reservation on the timing of the visit. About the outcome of the visit and his prospects, Gen.Aoun said "his pontiff has called for dialogue and hinted that root of the problem is not only related to the Lebanese but also related to regional parties who are still battling for political and geographical control of Lebanon, meaning Syria and Israel, who should leave the Lebanese to have a calm dialogue and to build their society in a way that does not contradict with others".

-Sweeping reactions in Lebanon continue. Former premier Selim Hoss said the visit was great historical event and denied the slogan saying Lebanon is insecure. He said the visit has shown that the Lebanese state is capable of controlling the situation now and in case of any Israeli withdrawal from south and west Bekaa. Hoss also highlighted the importance of world media coverage of the visit, and after all the apostolic guidance was magnificent in calling for dialogue, love, solidarity, national sharing, and links with the Arab world.

Information minister hailed the wide and efficient coverage of the visit by the Lebanese and foreign media. Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said the objectives of the visit include consolidating the common living in a century now needing other than the one color states, and reintroducing the Lebanese case namely implementation of the 425 resolution and liberation of south.

State minister for finance said the visit will help project the new image of Lebanon. MP Boutros Harb said an early assessment lead us to say it was a call to the Lebanese to return to themselves to argue their existence, future, and role, also to get out of the past self  jail and the restricting past stands, and face reality as a fact.

MP Nassib Lahoud said the Pope address is a very broad one and should not be involved in the narrow paths of the mean minor politics. Beirut MP Jamil Shammas said the visit was beyond all expectations and the Lebanese show a high standard of civilization and enthusiasm, also their attachment to faith and values. Shammas said the 6 patriarchs and around 30 bishops who were present at the mass indicated how the minority communities are active and live in the Arab world. MP Abdel Latif Zein said the visit was a dream and an event.

Hizbullah MP Ali Khreis said the visit aimed at consolidating national unity and the building of a strong state and not aimed to strengthen some Lebanese against the others. Former MP Issam Naaman said the massive welcome was a denunciation of the decay authority and the declined socio-economic situation, also expressed eagerness to root change of the political and social situation.

Sheikh Zuheir Kanj said the apostolic guidance has briefly mentioned the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, recalled that the tragedies facing the Lebanese people since 50 year, had been a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine forcing 300 thousand Palestinians to take refuge in Lebanon, additional to the series of wars against Lebanon. he said the guidance did not call for implementation of the UN resolutions namely the 425 resolution. He blamed the guidance for the hint on extremism instead of praising the resistance in south Lebanon.

-Fairouz did not participate in Sunday mass because of a protocol failure especially for lack of coordination between Lebanese and Vatican organizers of the mass.

-Public Railway and transportation board said it has received cables of congratulations for providing free and accurate on time transportation of  some 140 thousand at 28 concentration post to allow them participate in Sunday mass.

- Prisoners at Roumieh central prison were allowed to watch Sunday mass by his pontiff on T.V.

- Kataeb president George Saadeh said the most important meanings of the visit is to translate its positiveness into lived factual actions and moves in order to avert missing such historical eventuality.

Lebanon-Israel, Resistance Operations

- The Israeli-SLA joint outpost at Sojod has been overrun May 12 by the fighters of the Islamic resistance, news reports said. The resistance rocketed the post at 1.00 p.m. and invaded the post later on clashing with the guards for around 2 hours. One Israeli soldier was wounded together with 4 SLA men, while the resistance announced martyrdom of the commander of  the attacking group. The resistance statement and eyewitnesses reported that the post was under resistance control for a while with their flag and banner hoisted on the invaded post. Israeli warplanes raided three times the hills in Iqlim Toffah and resistance supply routes, their helicopters combed the area, with their artillery pounding top hills at Iqlim Toffah for around 6 hours. The SLA and Israeli soldiers who lost control of the post for an hour could return back after air raids and helicopters operation. News reports described the confrontation "Sojod war".

Prime Minister-Bashar Assad

-Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri met May 12 with Syrian president Hafez Assad elder son Bashar Assad at a launch hosted at Shtaura by Brig. Ghazi Kanaan in presence of the commander of the Syrian forces in Lebanon. Hariri described the meeting as very positive and said they discussed the regional and local issues. The significance of the meeting is that it has put down allegations that relation of Hariri with Bashar Assad was not close. It is first such meeting between the two.

News Summary

-Arab Parliaments Union 7th conference is now held in Cairo. Heads of  delegations held marathon session May 11 and 12 prior to the opening session today at the Arab League. Lebanon's speaker nabih Berri arrived Sunday after farewell ceremony for Pope John Paul II .

- Lebanon Constitutional Council is now dormant or rather in a recovery stage after the illness of some of its members.

- Fog that was looming over the southern suburbs of Beirut May 12 led to the closure of Beirut International Airport for sometime since the morning, forcing three flights to land at Larnaca. The airport was reopened as of 11.30 a.m..

-Lebanon foreign minister and an economical delegation arrived to Rumania. A Lebanese consulate is reopened at Constanza-Rumania. Minister Boueiz said the Lebanese in Rumania are now forming an essential chain of the Rumanian economy.

-Trial of five members of the Japanese Red Army charged of forging Lebanese documents and seals is to start on Monday.

- Ashoura mourning councils continue until Friday in various predominant Shiite areas. Hizbullah S.G. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said at May 12 council "if our land continue to be occupied it is our problem and we are the reason". He questioned how the 5 million Jews could be dominant over 200-300 million Arabs and over 1.4 billion Muslim. Nasrallah said the Israelis could reach now to Turkey, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Red Sea and "we have to look into the Israeli Mossad in the events now taking place in Zaire and Kongo which the US is behind it too".

Sports Round Up

-Asian Clubs 9th volleyball Championship opened may 12 at Riyadi Ghazir in presence of education minister Jean Obeid, representing president Hrawi, and other senior officials. The first game was between Japanese Nippon steel team and Lebanese Shabiba Bushriya. The Japanese defeated Bushriya 3-0.

- Wardieh won Anibale -Zahle 97-87 in the 19th round of Lebanon basketball championship. Shabab Ghobeiri defeated Abnaa Neptune 92-76. Ihyaa Riyaya-Zouk defeated Mont La Salle with 74-59.

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