News from Beirut May 21 1997 ...Search

Lebanon-The Constitutional Council Rulings and the Aftermath

- Akkar, West Bekaa, and Byblos constituencies are now scene of the usual election campaigning, though date of the by elections not officially announced, but it is definite it will be held on 29th June. So far 41 candidates are to run in the mentioned constituencies. The controversy now is on the caza or mohafaza as constituency. Officials and parliamentarians tend to adopt caza as constituency, because it will save money and administrative burdens, allow a swift poll before the summer season, and perhaps avert same errors, malpractice, and violations as in last year. It was learned that the Brevet examinations have been postponed until after the poll.

- The Constitutional Council is to meet today upon an invitation by deputy head Mohammed Majzoub to try to hold a lottery draw on four of its members who's term already expired, also to hold a draw on resigned head jurist Wajdi Mallat. The lottery will allow parliament and/or government to name their successors. The parliament elects some of the 10 members and the government names some others. The quorum for today's session is eight.

Electing president of the council who succeeds Wajdi Mallat is to be carried by the council itself, while the 9 other members are named by both the government and parliament.

South Lebanon Monitoring Panel-Syria

- Syrian foreign minister Farouk Sharaa held talks May 21 with the American head of the cease-fire monitoring committee David Greenly. It is second meeting between the two. The two officials evaluated in over an hour the committee's work in the past six months, and exchanged their views on the coming six months during which the USA will be presiding the panel. The American side put emphasis on halting resistance operations which is targeting the Israelis in the occupied security zone and tried to justify the Israeli latest operations. Mr. Sharaa affirmed it is a mistake to equal between Israeli occupants and those resisting occupation of their country.

Sharaa also pointed out that its impossible to compare resistance strikes inside the security zone and the Israeli operations in south Lebanon. The Syrian minister also stressed the point that the monitoring panel military capacity cannot be turned into a political one. Syria is known to be rejecting any attempt to shift the military panel into a political framework which consecrates the occupation of the south. Sharaa has received last week, for the third consecutive time since the April understanding was reached, the French former head of the committee Ambassador Goussault. He was quoted saying he is relaxed to the mechanism of the committee work and its positive role in curbing escalation. The two sides affirmed that the April understanding is not representing an alternative to peace. Mr. Sharaa said he has the conviction that Israel is seeking a military escalation.

Israel Defense Minister-South

- Israel defense minister Gen. Murdakhai checked May 21 the advanced posts in the eastern sector of south Lebanon, in the company of the Israeli chief of  staff Gen. Shahak, commander of the northern front Gen. Levine, and commander of the liaison unit Gen. Amitai. The military officials checked from far the scene of last Thursday clash at Bir Dahre hills in west Bekaa, where 3 Israeli soldiers killed and eight others wounded. At a press conference in the barrack of Merjeuoun, Gen. Mudakhai praised the courageous action of both the Israeli army and the SLA in confronting the "terrorist assaults" they are facing in the border strip. He considered these assaults as a violation of the cease-fire and said the Israeli military activities in the border area will continue, as it aim restoring security of north Israel population. He pointed out "this is the reason of staying there at present".

Murdakhai said it is undoubtful that Syria and Iran are both adopting and  motivating Hizbullah, and there are steady unstopped air flights between Iran and Bekaa via Damascus, as the Iranian aircrafts transport combat weapons, ammunitions, and anti tanks missiles to Hizbullah. On the Naqoura suicide  operation, Murdakhai said "we know how to face these aggressions". News agencies said Murdakhai met in Merjeuoun commander of the SLA Antoine Lahd and also said there Iran is supplying Hizbullah with long range missiles and anti aircrafts missiles.

- Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz said the Israeli military escalation in south Lebanon is aimed to overshadow Netanyahu's internal problems by waging external problems, also trying to prepare for political crisis in a bid to reunite his shattered government. Boueiz also said that 'it seems Israel has partially succeeded to torpedo the US role as an entrusted, honest, peace broker and mediator.

- Resistance men rocketed May 20 the SLA outpost at Ahmadieh. Another SLA outpost at Kaoukaba came under mortar fire drawing artillery retaliatory shelling. The AMAL movement publicized a will written by the suicider Hisham Fahs of Jibchit near Nabatieh who attempted to destroy an Israeli vessel off Tyre earlier. The movement called for a rally today at Jibchit to honor the suicider.


Patriarch Sfair in an interview with the T.V Orbit network said the "relation with Syria should be quite well but the Syrian army long stay here took long time and that is not in the interest of two countries. He wondered why Lebanon is the only open front against Israel. He said "Lebanon and Syria are two neighbors and every neighbor should live in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect with the other ".

"We have furthermore an interest to have best relation and the links between the two countries are so many". He pointed out saying he is in favor of close relation but a relation is not properly based unless each country enjoys sovereignty, independence, and decision making, and each country to run its own affair by itself without any one pressuring the other. He denied that Syria pressured Lebanon during its stay here but "the responsibility is common between Lebanon and Syria". Sfair said Lebanon cannot unilaterally have peace with Israel neither unilaterally fight it and the slogan "Lebanon first" is a unilateral move. He described the Pope visit as extremely important and its results need sometime to show up. He said there are underway contacts with some circles on the implementation of the apostolic guidance. The patriarch pointed out that "we have counted the fields where the Taif accord was not implemented, the displaced were not returned yet, the exiled did not return yet too, very few of the Lebanese emigrants did return, and the decision to disarm all parties was taken but by the time it was proved that the decision was enforced on one group only".

He mentioned also that work  for a government of national conciliation did not see light yet, and all the before mentioned reasons made the Christians boycott, since the institutions were not respected and the powers mixed up. He said "the religious communities should be respected but the problem is the confessional thinking which should be limited to make Lebanon a homeland for every citizen Christian or non-Christian". Asked about a church stand saying there is another culture more important than Arabic and a Christian affiliation more important than the Arab affiliation, Patriarch Sfair respond was " this issue has been vague to some people but such vagueness should be eliminated. We have affirmed in the Taif accord that Lebanon is an Arab, earlier to that it was said Lebanon is of an Arab face. Lebanon belongs to the Arab region and a founding member of the Arab league, which was 7 members and now 22. We speak Arabic, and permit me to say with humble, that the Christians had a great role on the Arabic language. As a conclusion, Lebanon is an Arab with such meaning, but it is not correct to say Lebanon is an Arab meaning all Lebanon is Muslim. There are Arab Christians , and Arab Muslims, and Islam does not mean only Arabs, and Arabs does not mean only Muslims, because there are countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia, which are Islamic states but not Arabs".

He said "we say the culture in Lebanon is surely Arabic, and its furthermore Arabic, Christian, and Islamic forming the Lebanese culture, and its a mixture of the two, for that, they say in every Christian there is something of the Islam in Lebanon, and in every Muslim there is something of the Christianity in Lebanon".

News In Brief

- News today said president Hrawi is giving main focus to the apostolic guidance to boost his political address, to improve his image, and brighten achievements of his term, and seek another extension.

- Prime minister Hariri received a message from the president of Senegal handed to him by a special envoy. The envoy said the Lebanese community in Senegal is adapted with the situation there and feel they are at home, and the same to the Senegalese community in Lebanon. Mr. Hariri only visitors yesterday included Minister Walid Jumblat and his aide, CDR chairman and minister Elie Hubeika. Mr. Hariri is reported ill and he left the office early to his residence for comfort.

- Former premier Selim Hoss described last year elections as the "worst ever elections in the history of Lebanon due to the many errors and implications".He said he wished the council could have accepted other challenges out of the 19 challenge presented to it, since it enjoys the strong evidence and logic. Hoss did not receive yet any government response to his many questions to the government namely one question on telephones tapping.

- The National Grouping under Douri Chamoun, commenting on the Constitutional Council's rulings, said verdict on the four parliament memberships can be generalized to include most of the constituencies and most of the elected MPs. The group said standing silent before the violations and breaches would destroy democracy and strike at the common living and entente. The group called for a government which can hold proper elections.

- French ambassador in Lebanon out of protocol visited Tyre and Qana in south Lebanon where he paid respect to the victims of the massacre. He spent the night at the UNIFIL H.Q in Naqoura.

- The new leadership of the World Lebanese Cultural Union held its first press conference at the foreign ministry in Beirut, following the elections that took place during the 11th conference held in L.A in the USA. The new S.G. Joseph Yunis said the association is the only representative of the emigrants and willing to coordinate with all others but with no allegiance.

- Human Rights Watch organization called the Lebanese government to investigate the working conditions of an Ethiopian working in Beirut which are tantamount to slavery.

- 16 cars were overrun by a truck loaded with 25 ton of goods at Masnaa crosspoint after loosing brake.

Sports Round Up

- Lebanese Football Federation adopted at a meeting held May 20 the result of a draw on the preliminary games of Lebanon championship for the 97-98 season. The start of the games will be on 28th August. The federation also adopted the classification of teams for the coming season. The first class teams include Safa, Ansar, Burj, Nijmeh, Tadamoun-Tyr, Homentmen-Beirut, Homenmen-Beirut, Ikhaa -Aley, Hikmeh, Shabab Sahel, Riyada wal Adab, Racing, Ahli-Sidon, and Al Ahd-Beirut.

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