News from Beirut May 17  1997 ...Search

Lebanon Today, M.E Impasse and South Violence

-US peace coordinator Dennis Ross already departed the M.E going back to the USA  following his 10 days inconclusive diplomacy in the region. His last hours were crucial and embarrassing after the Palestinian leadership refrained to meet him in Nablus. Arafat who at last accepted meeting with Ross has aired a complaint of Ross conduct and asked the USA to intervene to halt the collapse of the peace process. He said he wants a clear and active stand from the USA on the Israeli persistence to go on with settlement projects and said Ross mission did not make any positive result.

-The relative calm which has prevailed in south Lebanon for hours was broken today at 4.00 p.m. by Israel after its artillery shelled the hills of Sojod and Rihan in Iqlim Toffah. The Islamic resistance was engaged in heavy clashes with the Israeli forces as of 4.00 p.m. today at the hills of Jabal Dahr and Daidaba in west Bekaa. The intensive artillery shelling in west Bekaa was due to Israeli attempts to pull out bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in recent battles. The Islamic resistance announced martyrdom of two of its fighters in the operation at Bir Dahr evening Thursday. The 5 nation cease-fire monitoring committee is worried of the violence in south and west Bekaa but it has received no call to convene to discuss the situation. The monitoring panel was designed to look only into actions that target civilians. The artillery duels renewed this evening and UNIFIL sources said some 100 artillery shell were fired during the day by the combatants.

- "The Israeli current military escalation was regarded significant in timing as it comes after the visit of his pontiff to Lebanon, also significant in place, because the battles now take place at the west Bekaa frontline. The extensive artillery shelling and scale of the Israeli air force raids are an Israeli attempt to overshadow failure of the mission of US peace coordinator Dennis Ross", Lebanese state official media said.

 News Summary

-President Elias Hrawi discussed with prime minister Rafic Hariri the outcome of his visit to Seoul-Korea and the military developments in south and namely in west Bekaa. Hrawi is to open tomorrow the newly built public hospital at Meallaka-Zahle.

- State minister for finance Fouad Seniora who escorted prime minister Hariri in his visit to Seoul said "positive results of the visit will be emerging by time and after follow up". Seniora said the Korean side show confidence in Lebanon and regard it as key to relation between the Far East and the M.E.

- Patriarch Sfair, speaking today at a sermon held at Harissa Basilica on verge of the Pope 77th anniversary, said how proud and confident were the Lebanese when his pontiff  highlighted the message of Lebanon through centuries. Sfair said his pontiff was highlighting the diverse sects that exist in Lebanon and the possibility of living together in peace and cooperation. "his pontiff also consecrated the right of every human of  religious freedom and that the Lebanese are united in loving their country, and preserved their religious spiritual heritage". Patriarch Sfair wished his pontiff strength to work for the church and humanity, and wished conciliation between persons, families, neighbors, and institutions of the civil society to complete.

- Minister Walid Jumblat said today Pope John Paul II has turned Patriarch Sfair into an authority for all the Christians in Lebanon. He said the Vatican averted talking on delicate points such as the Israeli occupation and presence of the Syrians and that was a clever way out. Jumblat said the Patriarch has in mind two major issues including first the issue of  prisoners, particularly the case of Samir Geagea, and the Syrian presence. He said the election of the Labor union executive board proved how the security agencies are loose and not under the control of the political authority, as if each agency is acting by its own wish, starting with Hubeish police station and upward.

- Speaker Nabih Berri, in one of press interview series titled "remember"  published here today said the Syrians would be interested to know who is the president, prime minister, or commander of the army in Lebanon, but not interested to know who is the director of this or that administration or head of this or that section etc., and it is the Lebanese who ask Syria to intervene in their inter affairs. Berri said he never complaint to Syria but others are placing their complaints before them. He said he is still stick to the death of the troika rule system.

- Following the harsh statement of the PSP under minister Walid Jumblat against the army commander, prime minister Hariri remained silent even after his return from Seoul. He may have discussed the stagnation with the army command at his meeting today with president Hrawi but no official comment was given yet.

- German toxic wastes containers are to be shipped Monday following an accord between the Lebanese and German sides.

- Ashoura commemoration was held today at Nabatieh instead of May 16 according to Fatwa from Nabatieh cleric .

-Large fire that erupted at a paint factory in Zouk Musbeh, damages were est. by $150mn.

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