News from Beirut May 29 1997 ...Search

Lebanese Parliament

- Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri, and members of his parliament bloc with others from the National Struggle bloc led by minister Walid Jumblat, walked out of the parliament session on its second day. The second day of the session was reported fiery after former prime minister Selim Hoss proposed that the government strictly abide by constitution when giving treasury lending. Hariri was reported angered after the speaker of the house Nabih Berri put the proposal on voting. Speaker Berri said the parliament will supervise from now on every lending which contradict with the constitution and law stipulation.

Commenting on yesterday's satellite broadcasted cartoons and remarks on the parliament session, Berri said the parliament is not "canned" and has its dignity and constitutional rights, and not televising the session was an endeavor on the image of parliament. Government ministers responded to MPs inquiries on issues including municipalities money which are used by government, the constructions at Beirut airport, and another question on government functions. MP George Kassarji persisted to have vote of confidence on P.T.T minister Rafic Hariri. The voting took place with 69 in favor of government policy, 10 against, and 4 Hizbullah MPs abstain.

General News

- An MEA plane arrived this morning to Beirut from Freetown with 150 Lebanese emigrants on board, mostly women and dependents, in a first such flight of many others aimed to evacuate the Lebanese in the African war torn country.

The Lebanese ladies spoke on cases of rape, looting, killing, and said the situation there is intolerable. Among the evacuees the Lebanese businessman Jamil Saeed who arrived together with the body of his son who was killed in Freetown. Another Lebanese victim's body Walid Rumieh arrived on the same plane. The Lebanese emigrants said Nigerian peacekeepers and units from the US marines warned the coup leaders in Freetown to step down. The peacekeepers are ordered to reinstate former president Kabah.

- President Elias Hrawi received today a message from his pontiff Pope Jean Paul 11 handed by papal nuncio Pablo Puente. Puente held talks with Muslim mufti Mohammed Rachid Kabbani together with Shiite Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine.

- Patriarch Sfair received today a delegation representing Lebanese Journalists Association. He said Bkerke doors are open to all people, and namely to ranked people such as Bashar Assad. He said "we want the best relation with Syria on basis of independence and sovereignty. Patriarch Sfair received today deputy speaker Elie Firzli. Noon today he received the US ambassador Richard Jones.

Lebanon-Telephone Tapping

- Three parliament committees under the house speaker are to investigate now telephone tapping in Lebanon and tackle the issue which proved to be true. Government response to a question by former prime minister Selim Hoss on tapping admitted the case is true. It was a surprising dramatic recognition. Another dramatic move was prime minister Hariri remark saying he is amongst those tapped. Tapping was one of many other questions put to government by the MPs. The government responds were given yesterday during a parliament session that was described as fiery, heated, and reminded of the old 70's debates.

Interior minister Michel Murr in responding to the question, made the preview that tapping in Lebanon started in 1948 for security reasons, developed in 1953, and continued during the 50's and 60's. Murr preview said tapping was halted during the 70's for only 3 months and resumed later on during the 80's thanks to the militias. Murr said the present government is not the one initiated tapping but it is the practice in Lebanon since 50 years. He stated in his respond that the security situation now is more delicate and serious than the pre war period and it requires doubling the effort in order to maintain national security. He stated tapping is only for the necessary national preemptive security and the required investigations in some crimes. He said the telephone tapping is carried by security agencies which are charged of the mission by the general prosecutions. Murr said "such practice is existing allover the modern world countries for specific reasons, recalled that such countries have their own satellites". Murr put the figure of tapped telephones at 70 and said " cellulars are not tapped and tapping includes only some ordinary telephone lines".

- MPs including Nassib Lahoud, Boutros Harb, and Husseini Husseini, outlined that tapping should be according to legal procedures, and after maintaining the citizen freedom. They said if the national security requires tapping it should be specific and carried by one not five agencies. They also said that national security should not contradict with general freedoms. They proposed a judicial committee should permits tapping after a written request specifying time and purpose. MP Sami Khatib, who served as security chief during Chehabism era, said only 70 lines were tapped during the era but its now 7,000. Speaker Nabih Berri said the cellular telephones are also tapped. Former prime minister Selim Hoss, who submitted the question, said for the first time the government admits tapping, but the interior minister is saying tapping is not political. Hoss said he read books on tapping and there were two points mentioned first is that tapping should be judicial and should be for a crime that would occur or did occur. Hoss said in the USA president Nixon was ousted because of tapping. He said there are agencies that are now tapping telephones, but who is restricting them or controlling. He demanded a legislation on tapping that restrict it and organize it. Prime minister Hariri said any legislation on that would be waste of time unless those tapping against law are punished.

- Among government responds which heated the session was a response on the displaced and funding their repatriation. Other responses included issues of general service such as lendings to cultivators, water, telephones, irrigation, quarries and reconstructions at the airport.

- MP Najah Wakim who walked out after arguing and persisting for half an hour on a general debate. He argued the speaker mechanism of running the session and law stipulations on that. The angry Wakim said as he walked out he will not attend the session neither the coming sessions. He escorted another MP Mustafa Saad while going out. Wakim is always an advocate of Parliament supervision of the government's work. His absence yesterday deprived the session of further more heat. His 7 questions to the government dealt with issues of main concern, such as media and political freedoms, banning news in audio-visual stations, licenses to some TV and radio stations, arrest of Lebanese Omaya Abboud, and using the public post to make personal gains, and intervention in the labor union elections.

- Najah Wakim, after withdrawing from the session, said the speaker is violating the discipline, and squeezing political life in Lebanon is mounting to the extent the people are starting to shrink. He argued how the prime minister has the right to televise remarks against MPs, while the latter have no such equal right to respond to remarks against them. Wakim said it is well known that opposition MPs are banned of making their views public. He accused the speaker and the prime minister of making a package, and it is always a package of contracts, investments, and appointments. Wakim said the mercy bullet was fired today at the parliament, and the one who shot was the speaker not prime minister. He said the speaker took over the mission from government in order to shrink Lebanon's political and democratic life.


- News in Beirut said a visit to Bkerke by son of president Hafez Assad MR Bashar Assad would be fixed on Saturday. Sources in Beirut said Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri was not far from arranging the appointment and perhaps its agenda, during his last visit to Bkerke on last Saturday and his meeting with Patriarch Sfair.

Patriarch-Apostolic guidance

- Patriarch Sfair declared May 28 saying the responsibility of generating the apostolic guidance falls on all of us, adding that his pontiff's visit has returned to our people a self confidence that was lacked. Presiding the Maronite Social Fund's general assembly, Sfair said the guidance, now in French and shortly in Arabic, has carried guidance for all aspects of life, especially in the field of social assistance. He said the guidance 6th last chapter titled "the church in service of the society" spoke over the service which the church should carry on to its society", and the chapter's provisional titles included social service, administration of Awkaf, education service, information, political commitment, and human right. Bishop Roland Abu Jawdeh, chairman of the Fund's board, reported to the assembly last year's achievements. It included the two stages Patriarchate housing complex, with 60 houses already finished and handed to beneficence, and second phase including 80 houses and will be handed mid next year. The total cost of the two stages amounted $4.2mn. Director of the Housing saving and lending fund reported that 500 houses project construction will begin next spring and handed in the year 2000.

- Some members of the Maronite League held meeting yesterday at Jal Edib and discussed the July 6 election of the league's executive board. The consultations aim to unite stands and views prior to the elections. A follow up committee has been formed to call on the league's members and pave way for unity.

News In Brief

- The Constitutional Council in a session of no quorum with only 7 members present decided not to publicize the parliament elections violations.

- Israel's artillery shelled yesterday the middle sector in south Lebanon causing fires. An SLA outpost at Barachit came under mortar fire by the Islamic resistance. One SLA man was reported wounded. An SLA patrol was hit by a Sagre missile along the road of Barachit. On May 28 evening the SLA outpost at Toumat Niha came under mortar shelling. Islamic resistance statement said its fighters attacked the SLA post at Houla.

- Foreign minister Fares Boueiz and speaker Nabih Berri held May 28 a marathon meeting and reached agreement on the issue of emigrants attaches. Boueiz said the attaches will be same as ordinary state employees not diplomats and their work abroad will not contradict with diplomatic missions function.

- Lebanon foreign ministry economical department referred to the council of ministers a draft agreement on establishing joint border offices with Syria. The draft should be endorsed by government and ratified by parliament. The move aims to facilitate and speed up entry, exit, and transit for persons and goods between the two countries.

- UK state minister for foreign relations is due to arrive today to Beirut in a 17 hour visit and meets president Hrawi, prime minister Hariri, and foreign minister Fares Boueiz, to discuss ME peace process and bilateral relations. The British minister's visit is part of a ME tour.

- Former MP Fouad Saad said interior minister Michel Murr and the government should bear full responsibility of the pressure, rigging, and bribe violations, revealed by the Constitutional Council's rulings. Saad said the minister and the government are required to submit their resignation because both are politically responsible of these violations.

- French ambassador toured May 28 Tripoli touristic sites in north and met officials. He said his visit to Tripoli is normal after one month of assuming his post in Lebanon. He described the situation in south Lebanon as unacceptable and "there is a real situation that France is not satisfied with".

- Sayed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said the Iranian elect president Sayed Mohammed Khatemi has the sense of modernization, knows the mentality of this century and tries to adapt Islamic values and thoughts with this century's mentality and style.

- 69 US made armored personnel carrier delivered May 28 to the Lebanese army in presence of the US ambassador and representative of army commander.

- Egyptian foreign minister instructed Egyptian ambassador in Freetown to call on the coup leaders and extend all possible help to the Lebanese community there.

- Lebanese army national military service conscripts 23rd batch graduated may 28. Commander of the camp Brig. Michel Abu Rizk addressed the graduated saying the first message is the liberation of land.

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