News from Beirut May 24 1997 ...Search

Syrian-Christian Dialogue

The Pope's visit to Lebanon and the apostolic guidance his pontiff has signed are again the leading report and top story in the Lebanese media. The Constitutional Council's verdict and its consequent controversy and impacts preoccupied the media and the public for a while. Relevant to the guidance the Christian Syrian dialogue has leveled up. Bkerke is observing daily permanent active moves which center on translating the apostolic guidance which has gained a nation wide support in Lebanon.

News reports in Beirut said Patriarch Sfair received May 23 a letter from president Hrawi. Content of the letter was not disclosed but it came on verge of a launch today at Bkerke between the Patriarch and prime minister Rafic Hariri. Observers stem that a dialogue between Bkerke and Lebanon senior officials is going to surface up, recalled that the official welcome of the guidance paved the ground for a rapprochement between the state and the church, at least from the political-social approach, while the church has to look into the religious aspect. Hariri visit today and Hrawi letter to the Patriarch may signal a possible breakthrough in Syria-Christians dialogue. Bkerke is not far from such atmospheres and climates, though the dialogue with Syria is through secular figures close to Bkerke and not direct with it. The news said a paper on the dialogue is being laid down to push ahead the move. Hariri circles said his visit today to Bkerke is in the framework of the steady consultations between him and Bkerke. Topics of discussion today are not circulated but its naturally to deal with the Pope's visit, the apostolic guidance and other general issues. Hariri circles said the Syrian-Christian dialogue is to be naturally under discussion but not from the point of "mediation" between Damascus and Bkerke.

- Fresh news from Bkerke said the prime minister meeting today with Patriarch Sfair lasted 55 minutes. Prime minister Hariri, emerging from the meeting, told reporters that he discussed the visit of the Pope to Lebanon, and his evaluation together with the Patriarch was that its outcome is very positive with good reflections. Hariri said he did not discuss the Syrian Christian dialogue. He said he discussed too the issue of the displaced. Hariri promised that the repatriation of the displaced will be expedited and accelerated as of the beginning of June with enough financing. Responding to reporters on the Christian participation in political life, Hariri said participation is a constitutional right for the Christians and for other Lebanese, but it should be through the democratic frameworks. He said postponing the municipal elections was for a period until a new law passed and which could ensure large participation and ensures national unity.

- News today said the Syrian Christian dialogue gained momentum and concern after his pontiff's visit and issue of the apostolic guidance. It noticed Syrian positive signals including the mediators who are now closer and more entrusted by Bkerke.

-Prime minister Hariri evaluated the visit of the Pope with papal nuncio Pablo Puente at a meeting held at Hariri residence in Beirut.

-Patriarch Sfair received envoy of Senegal president, culture minister Fawzi Hobeich who said the coming by elections will be decisive and the people will have another say, also other MPs and dignitaries.

Provisional By Elections-Vote of confidence

- Prime minister Hariri circles excluded the possibility of vote of confidence neither on the entire government nor on any minister, during the parliament plenary session which will take place next week.

-Interior minister Michel Murr, in a preemptive measure prior to the plenary session which will discuss government policy, instructed the general director of the interior ministry and the civil status affair, also governors of Mount Lebanon, Bekaa, and north, to study the rulings of the Constitutional Council, accepting four challenge, "to verify the accuracy of the stated violations and errors, and if proved to be correct to specify those responsible, and propose the adequate disciplinary measures which should be taken". Mr. Murr stated in his instruction note "the campaigns casting doubts on those who administered, run and supervised the elections".

- Justice minister Bahij Tabbarra is to distribute the Constitutional Council's rulings on heads of the polling counting committees who are judges to give their viewpoints.

- The lawyers bar association in both Beirut and Tripoli in a joint statement opposed "the official attacks against the Constitutional Council's power, and any attempt to diminish it, or subject it to any patronage of any kind". The two bars emphasized on selecting qualified courageous members to replace the outgoing ones in the draw so that the council is not curved of its merit. However, the two bars considered the council's refusal, to inform those concerned of the violations stated by some of its members, "a violation of the law and the democratic principles".

-The NLP party under Douri Chamoun said the provisional by elections would be used to stir differences and splits also to preoccupy the public and stir incitements and feelings. The NLP said it is awared that the by elections is designed to serve a scheme aims to strike at the outcome of the Pope visit, and to counter the apostolic guidance in a bid to foil it. The party said the entire parliamentary elections was a fraud and should be totally nullified. The NLP reminded of its decision last year to boycott the elections and refrained to participate in voting.

- Former prime minister Selim Hoss demanded that the violations stated in the council's rulings should be handed to those concerned, "because the violation is complementary to the ruling and its a right to both the challenging and the challenged to be acknowledged of it".


- Diplomatic sources in Beirut are hopeful that the US travel ban on Lebanon would be lifted as a gesture of good will toward Lebanon and Syria to help resumption of the peace talks. Political sources on other hand said the intention to open an investigation on the bombing of the Marines H.Q in 1983 in Beirut, and the later bombing of the US embassy at Ain Mreisse, would be helpful to lifting the ban if the Lebanese judiciary verdict was satisfactory to the USA. The diplomatic circles said the Pope's visit to Lebanon and the stable security which has prevailed prompted a US review of their repeated slogan on instability and unsecure Lebanon. It is recalled that July is the date when the US administration review the travel ban imposed on Lebanon once every 6 months.


- Canadian foreign ministry head of ME division Andro Robbinson who heads the delegation of donor countries now visiting Lebanon affirmed that Canada has no secret plan to implant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. He assured that the refugees right to return back to their mother country is something between the Palestinians and the world society, also a unanimous concept everywhere the refugees are. He said at a press conference ending the visit that they visited 5 Palestinian camps in Lebanon and will report on their observations to donor countries.


- One Hizbullah fighter martyred and 3 others wounded this morning May 24 when an Israeli force penetrated north out of the security zone to the vicinity of Zibqine village in the western sector. Hizbullah fatalities were inflicted when the fighters confronted the Israeli infiltrating force. An Israeli helicopter brought to the scene of clash fired an air to surface missile that inflicted the casualties of Hizbullah. Israel said the infiltrating force returned safe, while the Islamic resistance said they inflicted casualties among the raiding force.

- Israel's radio said prime minister Netanyahu and minister of the internal security Avigdor Kahlani traded accusations at yesterday's cabinet weekly meeting. The argument was over the Israeli cabinet stand refusing unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon which is refused by Kahlani. Netanyahu asked the minister to abide by the cabinet decision.

- Foreign minister Fares Boueiz received yesterday a message from his French counterpart De Charette dealt with the situation in south Lebanon and the cease-fire monitoring group. The ministry gave no further elaboration.

- SLA sources said its outposts at Dabsheh, Ali Taher, and Sojod came under mortar fire yesterday's morning and its artillery returned the fire. The Nabatieh outskirts and hills of Kfarruman came under Israeli and SLA retaliatory shelling causing fires. The shelling at Nabatieh and its vicinity resumed at noon. Israeli warplanes flew over the area and staged mock raids. The SLA said also a blast exploded evening in a car belonging to an ISF man at Saidoun main road in Jezzine area and no casualties were reported.

Turkish Military Dragnet In North Iraq

-Muslim clergy on Friday masses assailed the Turkish invasion of north Iraq, considering it an aspect of the Zionist plan that aims at pressuring Syria and Iran. Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine said it is not believed that safety of Turkey depends on such invasion which is repeated since two years, and which now repeats in a manner that cast doubts and anger. He said is it necessary that glory of Turkey and its international role depends on hostility to Arabs, stabbing in their back, and allying to Israel. Sayed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said the Turkish-Israeli alliance under the USA shadow is stirring problems in the region in bid to overshadow its real objectives which are pressuring Syria and Iran.

News In Brief

- Lebanon officially recognized the new regime in Zaire now Congo republic under Kabila. official statement by the foreign ministry said Lebanon welcome restoration of stability and security in the democratic republic of Congo, express the wish to establish good relation of cooperation and friendship, and appreciate efforts of the new regime headed by Mr. Kabila, to restore peaceful life and ensure safety for the foreign communities, including the Lebanese community.

- Former MP Mikhail Daher who is going to run against for the seat after the nullification of his rival candidate membership, is now at his hometown Kubayat to administer his election campaign. Daher described the Constitutional Council's rulings as a victory for democracy, justice, and right.

- Mohammed Khaled Zohbi is the first candidate willing to run for Akkar Sunni seat.

- Minister of administrative reform Beshara Merhej said the new salary scale of the state employees would be postponed but the government is still working to adopt it . Merhej said the total cost of the new scale is not the only problem because technical problems are also considerable.

- Applications for naturalization will be suspended during the period May 26 to June 30 and until further notice, in view of the interior ministry preoccupation in the provisional by elections, the interior ministry said.

- Hizbullah S.G sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, speaking in the commemoration of four resistance martyrs in Baalbek, responded for the first time to former S.G sheikh Subhi Tufeili. Nasrallah, in a negative stand toward the "revolt of the starved" move announced by Tufeili, said "it is not allowed to anyone to adopt a method of work, under the motto of starvation and its problem, to penetrate into the believers drive to fragment and cause cracks". He added saying "don't allow the enemies to penetrate into our ranks and speak words that are not of our ethics and the drive of our martyrs"

- Hizbullah MP Ammar Mussawi, commenting on the earlier remarks given by sheikh Subhi Tufeili, said Tufeili call is individual and leads to anarchy.

- Under the motto of a " Maronite different league after the Pope's visit", Christian parties and groups including NLP, Kataeb, National Blocv, Gen. Aoun loyalists, and others, met for the fifth time at the residence of the Solidarity Party leader Emile Rahmeh, to discuss energizing the league on verge of the election of new executive board on 6th July.

- Arabic sources in Baghdad said Syria and Iraq are paving grounds for resumption of relations and reopen the land road that was closed in 1980. The sources said the visit of a Syrian trade delegation to Baghdad was a first step in that context. It said the delegation's visit was not only aimed to promote trade relation but to pave the ground for resuming diplomatic and political relation which were severed 17 years ago. The sources affirmed that many trade and industrial delegations from both countries will exchange visits shortly.

- In Beirut, some 750 Iranian nationals headed to the Iranian embassy at Bir Hassan in Beirut to participate in the Iranian presidential elections. There were plans to have voting in Nabatieh and Baalbek but the Lebanese authority said foreigners are only allowed to vote at their embassies premises. Total of the Iranian community in Lebanon is 5,000 and only 1,500 are eligible to vote.

Sports Round Up

- Nijmeh football team beat Haraket Shabab 3-1 in their friendly match yesterday at Burj Hammoud stadium with around 3,000 audience.

- Lebanon national football team is to play today a match of last chance in Singapore in the Asian finals 7th round of the world cup 16.

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