News from Beirut May 22 1997 ...Search

Lebanon Constitutional Council; Verdict and Draw

Four out of the 10 members Constitutional Council lost their posts in a draw held May 21, in addition to head of the council jurist Wajdi Mallat who resigned earlier. The outgoing four are :

1.Selim el Azar G.Orthodox

2.Jawad Osseiran Shiite

3.Mohammed Majzoub Sunni

4.Pierre Ghannajeh Catholic

The Parliament has to elect successors of outgoing Osseiran and Majzoub, also of the resigned head Mallat, because it was parliament which elected the three at first time. The government has to select name successors of El Azar and Ghannajeh which it has named too. The outgoing members have the legal right to continue assume their posts until 4th July, which is a deadline for both the parliament and government to elect or name the five outgoing members. Names of prominent lawyers, judges, and law experts to fill the vacant posts were circulated in the media today, but prime minister Hariri quoted saying such issue was not under discussion yet and it is premature to settle it soon.

Speaker Nabih Berri, at the opening of the plenary session which started May 21 and will continue today, argued the authority and prerogatives of the council. President Elias Hrawi was indirectly critical two days ago to the council, because of its verdict on holding by elections instead of replacing challenging MPs.

Mr. Berri argued that the council prerogatives stipulate it can nullify parliamentary membership of an MP and consequently announce as a winner the nearest candidate who won the majority of the votes. He said the council's verdict should have been issued in accordance to the stipulation, and was reported dismayed of the general situation and of the doubts casted on the whole entire parliament as a result of the council's verdict. He hinted to the scale of assaults "directed against the parliament and its dignity under the pretext of a verdict". He also said "there is an atmosphere of extreme sensitivity and delicacy caused by the council's decisions, something is starting to widen and threatens the entire parliament, as if the nullification of four memberships was a moral nullification of the entire parliament".

Lebanon-France, Visas and Residence Permits

Lebanese and French foreign ministry officials held talks May 21 in Beirut on the issue of entry visas, residence permits, and facility of movements for both the Lebanese and French nationals in the two countries. The French officials, asked why Lebanese visa issued in 3 days time by the Lebanese embassy in Paris, while it takes 20 days in the French embassy in Lebanon.

France is committed to "Schnigen" order which dictates the delay while Lebanon is free in giving such visas, the French visa is issued in 12 not 20 days. The official said there are some exceptions which could be taken but it includes entry visa to France only, and in case the applicant wants to go to France, and sametime to Switzerland and Belgium, it would then take 12 days to be granted. The French official said the talks made progress, excluded any further meetings, and said there will be further contacts and already some plans were drawn aimed to improve the situation in both countries.


News today predicted that the land road and transportation between Iraq and Syria would be reopened again amid a visit by a Syrian trade delegation to Baghdad. The news said such move would signal a political rapprochement between the two Arab neighbor states. The Syrian delegation head proposed Syria to be a sea outlet on the Mediterranean for Iraq's imports.

News In Brief

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri, speaking today at a conference on the Arab financial markets, said the slow economy drive in Lebanon was due to Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" operation last year and the shaky peace drive in the M.E. he said a war in the region is unlikely to take place because it has no justification. Hariri assured that the war in Lebanon had gone forever, and his government rebuilding plans are in the direct path, also things are under control but though there are problems which should be solved. Hariri was affirmative that the gold reserves of Lebanon is untouchable, as its the "Lebanese money under pillow", and though gold reserves investment might bring $300mn yearly, thinking to turn it to liquid money would cause damages that exceeds the income. Hariri was responding to question on why not to use gold to finance the repatriation of the displaced. He promised that the repatriation this summer will be magnificent and the number of the displaced returning back to their homes will be high. Hariri said the central bank reserves now is over $6bn including the banks deposits, compared to only $400mn since 4 years.

- One Israeli soldier was critically wounded May 21 in a land mine explosion on the hills overlooking Nabatieh. The Islamic resistance claimed responsibility of the incident saying it has exploded a blast against the Israeli unit. The soldier was airlifted to hospital inside Israel and the Israeli artillery combed with artillery shelling the scene of the incident.

- US ambassador Richard Jones handed prime minister Hariri a message from USA vice president Albert Gore. Jones said the visit of the Pope will reflect positively on the security in Lebanon.

- Secretary general of the British legal council on the M.E Ibrahim Kanaan handed the British new prime minister a special message from Patriarch Sfair. Content of the message was not disclosed. Kanaan said he hoped  electing the new prime minister in the Uk would be more supportive to the Lebanese rights and enhancing the cooperation between Lebanon and UK.

- Senegal president's envoy visited May 21 Muslim senior religious leaders Sheikh Mohammed Shamseddine and Mohammed Kabbani. The envoy discussed consolidating relation between Senegalese religious authorities and Dar el Fatwa including dispatch of students. The envoy discussed with Sheikh Shamseddine the bilateral relation and contributions of the Lebanese community in Senegal.

- The National Bloc Party at its weekly meeting questioned why the interior minister Michel Murr is waiting to submit his resignation, and who is responsible of the election rigging as it was proved by the Constitutional Council.

- The Lebanese communist party said the Constitutional Council's decisions were of historic nature but its direct positive results are relative and proportional.

- Hizbullah parliamentary bloc said the Constitutional Council's decision was a political compromise and not successful enough.

- "The apostolic guidance Arabic version will be available early June, the French version will be available in one week, and the Catholic information center is exclusively in charge of the work", The Catholic information center said.

- Lebanon Muslim Shiite Supreme Council announced it will be on the internet under the URL . The site will contain Religious, cultural, political subjects, email addresses of Mufti Abdel Amir Kabalan, the seminars lectures and fatawi with the contents of the council's magazine Al Karar. The council said it will receive and respond to messages on the site.

- Palestinians in the camps of Rashidiye and Ain Helwe received the Canadian official Andro Robbinson in his capacity as representative of donor countries not as head of the refugees committee of the multi nation peace talks. The Palestinians received him and other members of the donors countries with a long list of social demands with emphasis on the very hard living conditions they are facing.

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