News from Beirut May 15  1997 ...Search

Lebanon-Pope's Major Concern

-Pope John Paul II following his historic, successful, and unforgettable visit to Lebanon is showing an absolute priority for Lebanon and giving the indication that his visit will be pursued. Three days after the visit, and in an apparent mount up of his stands on Lebanon, he demanded the M.E. countries and the world society of "actual peace guarantees to Lebanon which had suffered for long". His pontiff's recent stands were characterized by introducing the peculiarities of Lebanon "which is far from fanaticism and distinguished than other countries where the extremists dominate the social life".

His pontiff's remarks came as he was addressing some 20,000 believers from different countries who gathered at St. Peter's square in the Vatican during the Pope's weekly audience each Wednesday. He "said peace is Lebanon's basic message, and in order to carry on this message, it is Lebanon's right to receive the help of those who have influence so that peace can be restored on its land". His pontiff expressed happiness to meet the Lebanese youths on last Saturday, stating that "the future of the Catholic church and the Lebanese nation depends in a major part on the youths, who will themselves cross over to the third thousand and who will lead their country and church to a new era of faith". He explained Lebanon's message on world openness saying "Lebanon has a Christian history linked in particular to the Maronite church, but this is not sole, as there are other Catholic churches of major importance, there is the Orthodox church, and everyone knows that the Lebanese Muslims since centuries had been living in harmony with the Christians". His pontiff outlined "During my visit I have strongly emphasized on the importance of maintaining such intimate relation, in order to preserve the national and cultural identity of the Lebanese nation". The Pope stressed that "the spirit of Lebanon is apart of any fanaticism and that is definitely what distinguish it from other states where the extremists are greatly dominating the political and social life and mostly depending in an unjust way on religion". He concluded saying "Lebanon is an open society and hoping the Lebanese continue their life course toward openness, by that only, Lebanon can be able to accomplish the message it is bearing both for Lebanon and for all the world states namely in the M.E". He thanked the Lebanese authorities, the Christian churches, and the Muslim communities, for their hospitality and cooperation which contributed to success of the visit.

Lebanon Today

- The fifth day after the visit looks as if its the first. Visitors of Bkerke today aired their views on the visit and its aftermath. Patriarch Sfair told a delegation of the Kataeb party headed by George Saadeh that the visit of his pontiff has exploded hidden emotions. The patriarch said "we are blamed that we speak sometime politics, but in fact we are trying to apply our religious beliefs on politics, as the bible spoke on freedom, justice, human rights, justice etc., and we try to embody it in our life, by that we avert any differences. He said also that Lebanon is distinguished of its common living and freedom of each community to exercise its beliefs in accordance to each one's religion. He told the Kataeb delegation he was happy that Kataeb youths were present at Harissa during the youths meeting with his pontiff. "The youths and the Lebanese have discovered themselves during the visit, they realized they have the energy which can be beneficent for the country", Sfair said. The patriarch quoted one of the youths saying he was preparing to pack and leave, but when he saw the massive crowds welcoming his pontiff he changed his mind and regained his confidence and instead he will live here and die here.

- Douri Chamoun who was among visitors of the Patriarch today said the Pope remarks and words were for all , officials and else, and it is now a matter of the officials ability of moving freely to implement the apostolic guidance calls.

- Minister Walid Jumblat, speaking to press reporters today, said he welcomes the apostolic guidance which called some church officials to engage in their Arab and Islamic environment. Jumblat said the guidance called some church clergy to go out of isolation and seclusion. Jumblat said the Druze are part of the Arab Islamic civilization and the apostolic guidance reminded of the relation between the Vatican and the Druze during the era of Ali and Beshir Jumblat. He said "even Pierre Najm who spoke on behalf of the youths at Harissa was critical somehow to the church, and if we can guide such young people there can be a new generation which can rebuild Lebanon. The story of the assassination attempt was a fabrication of some loose Lebanese agencies which tried to introduce Islam as terrorism and criminal, and it was same agencies that fabricated the story of Japanese Red Army Okamoto.

- Papal Nuncio Pablo Puente said after a visit to Patriarch Sfair today the visit was a miracle and it is a commencement of series of miracles that will occur.

- Rima Assi Rahbani, daughter of Fairouz, briefed Patriarch Sfair today on the implications that averted Fairouz performance at Beirut downtown mass.

- Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine today said the Christian in the orient had not been ever posed to any danger, even in the darkest worst days. He said the visit of the Pope was put in a framework of consolidating the Christians in the orient, but the Muslims have the utmost concern and very much keen on the Christians.

- Hizbullah deputy S.G Sheikh Naim Kassem said there was not any assassination attempt as it was allegedly claimed and the news about it are ridiculous and not worthy. He questioned how the Italian and Canadian Interpol could know about such assassination and the Lebanese security agencies did not make any arrest or reveal anything about it. Kassem said the news aimed at sabotaging Lebanon's image and some Lebanese media are responsible of circulating such news.

- News observers question if the story on the assassination is true why the Interpol does not provide Lebanon with the detailed information proving that Hamas purchased Chinese missiles, also why the Italian Interpol did not seize the missiles.

- Speaker Nabih Berri, asked about the alleged assassination attempt, said in Cairo "what is important is the Pope did arrive to Lebanon, received by its people, and that is the big answer to those saying Lebanon is insecure and demand boycott of Lebanon and banning travel to it. When his pontiff is present and hundreds of thousands of the Lebanese are around him, this is the biggest answer to those doubtful".

- Observers noticed that the apostolic guidance did not refer to Israel in name on speaking about its occupation of south, neither it mentioned Syria on speaking about the existence of non Lebanese forces.

-Army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud, quoted by the national news agency which carried remarks by the commander, said the success of the army should not be reason to be frightened of it. He said the army rejects the logic of stagnation and is committed to the decisions of the political authority. He was also quoted saying the army is not in the position of competing politically anyone and the army is not responsible of smashing the civil institutions.


- Israel categorically refused May 14 to pay compensation for damages it  had inflicted last year shelling a UN building in Qana south Lebanon killing 105 persons who had been taking shelter there. The Israeli delegate told UN General Assembly financial committee "the damages that had occurred as result of the action (shelling) which was self defense is the responsibility of  those who carried the terrorist operations which had evoked the action and the terrorists with their protectors are the ones who should pay the damage compensations". Some Arab states have demanded that Israel, not the UN, should pay the damages bill amounting 41.8mn and nearly $200,000 as cost of  medical expenses for three UNIFIL soldiers. Diplomatic sources said the UN financial committee will decide later who would pay.

News Summary

- Lebanon speaker Nabih Berri said in Cairo "the Arab atmospheres are clear enough and none has opposed the Arab common market idea".

- Prime minister Hariri visit to Korea is economical and political. it aims to enhance trade relations and encourage investments, also seek Korean assistance for industry and financing some projects in Lebanon.

- Papal Nuncio Pablo Puente mission in Lebanon is at an end shortly. Puente term has been extended two years ago, and renewed again until after the visit of the Pope.

- The Constitutional Council may not hold any session to announce rulings on the parliamentary election appeals before June 4, when 5 members of the council will be replaced in a poll. The new members are preferred to be more flexible than the resigned jurist Wajdi Mallat. President Hrawi quoted telling his visitors today that the resignation of the council's head Mallat was a mistake and instead he should have exercised fully his duty, also the leaks were another mistake.

- Gathering for the Republic under Albert Mukheiber demanded resignation of  the interior minister Michel Murr, blaming him of disturbing the joyful atmospheres which has prevailed after the visit of the Pope. The gathering said the government should put an end to such repeated violations because it only aim at disturbing the joy and pleasure of the visit.

-News analysts today said Shtaura meeting between prime minister Rafic Hariri and Bashar Assad indicate that the government will remain in office until end of the president's term and observes the upcoming presidential elections.

- Military investigating judge Riad Talih issued his verdict against journalist Pierre Atallah, accusing him of circulating leaflets that stir public incitements, damage relations with friendly state, harming the army reputation, and contacting the Israeli enemy, asking a 3 year prison at least for him. The ruling which was issued hours after departure of his pontiff, issued arrest warrant against Atallah.

- Foreign minister Fares Boueiz, who is continuing his visit to Rumania, started May 14 his official talks. Boueiz said the talks centers on encouraging investments in Lebanon.

- Head of the Maronite League Ernest Karam suggested naming the site of the mass at downtown Beirut in name of the Pope.

- MP Bahiya Hariri, who heads the parliament education committee, said the attitude is to adopt 12/20 grade average for enrolling in faculties such as medicine, law, engineering, pharmacy, instead of qualifying tests.

- Kataeb party -opposition group said the apostolic guidance is a new Lebanese and Christian chart.

- In the 49th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine, Palestinian camps in Lebanon are on strike.

- Prosecutor general Adnan Addoum and head of the criminal court in Beirut George Ghantous left to Paris in 48 hour visit. Addoum said the visit aims at discussing legal and judicial issues.

Sports Round Up

- Asian 9th Volleyball tournament

- Saudi Hilal defeated Japanese Nippon Steel with 3-1. Iranian Baikan defeated Bushrieh Lebanon with 3-0. Samsung-Korea won Ghazir with 3-0. Heads of the visiting teams also the organizing and supervising committees were received by president Elias Hrawi.

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 Chateau Kefraya

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