News from Beirut May 3 1997 ...Search

Papal Visit To Lebanon

One week before scheduled visit to Lebanon, his pontiff's address to the Lebanese was earlier than usual. The visit which was a controversy in the past three years raised the hope that its historical aspect would push ahead national conciliation and the social rebuilding. Church circles said the predictions and expectations on the synod message is rushing and premature. Papal nuncio Pablo Puente handed a copy of his pontiff's address to cardinal Sfair before the announcement. Puente said all preparations for the visit are going well so far, his pontiff 's health is good, and he will walk at certain places contrary to earlier plan which shortened his walking distance.

-Beirut International Airport will close for two hours for the arrival of the Pope on May 10th and again for his departure the next day. His pontiff's plane will land at 12.15 p.m and leave next day at 7.30 p.m. The airport will be shut from 11.15 a.m-1.15 p.m and 6.30 p.m-8.30p.m respectively.

Airliners and international airports were informed of the measure taken for security reasons. The papal car dubbed the popemobile will be shipped today to Beirut airport aboard a C-130 Italian air force plane. State and church preparations are gaining momentum, and some posters and portraits of Iranian and Islamic leaders along the Airport-Ghobeiri highway in particular were removed.

Calls for massive participation in the welcome were issued by Chuf deputy George Dib Neemeh, while in Zghorta a coordination committee has been formed to follow up the arrangements, celebrities, and participation.

Jbeil MP Nuhad Suaid called for opening the door to all Lebanese, namely mountain people, to share in the reception, wishing his pontiff could visit Mar Sharbel and Jbeil.

The Maronite League S.G Nimatallah Abi Nasre said the "Lebanese Christians had not a say on the schedule of the visit and its not representing people's wish, particularly not including an audience between his pontiff and the opposition, which represents the vast majority of the Lebanese. His pontiff had never visited a country without meeting all factions of various tendencies. The schedule did not include an audience with the Druze Sheikkh Akel same as the other religious leaders. There are leaks on "softening" the synod tone on sovereignty".

Deputy speaker Elie Firzli said the Pope's visit on May 10 and 11th would consecrate the mortality of Lebanon which can't continue without a distinguished Christian role. Firzli hoped the visit would consecrate the Christian role which is one of the reasons for the survival of Lebanon, and no value for Lebanon without a Christian distinguished role in the political system. On marginalising the Christian political role and Syria's responsibility, he said marginalising the Christian role was due to the military defeat of their political schemes they had raised at the beginning of the war. Firzli added that Syria is a Lebanese need and in particular a Christian need. "As a Christian, I say the Syrian role in Lebanon is a guarantor of our security", Firzli said.

The "gathering for Lebanon" from Paris issued a public message to the Pope "hoping his visit to be a witness of the right and revives hope of the people. "The gathering's public message also said "His pontiff will meet a lost people without a shepherd facing the dangers of the economical, political and social situations."

US 1983 Suicide Bomb File-Travel Ban

Lebanon's judiciary is considering a Washington request to open an investigation into the 1983 suicide bombing of the US marine barracks near Beirut Airport and the US embassy in Ain Mreisse. An American delegation headed by Eric Boswell, the director of the foreign missions and ambassadors office, who met Lebanon prosecutor general Adnan Addoum yesterday, raised the issue. Boswell was accompanied by US ambassador Richard Jones. Sources in Beirut said investigations could begin shortly, and if it yields positive results, it could help towards lifting the US travel ban.

Prosecutor Addoum did not make comment on the subjects raised during the meeting. The delegation met earlier with interior minister Michel Murr. Jones said discussions with the minister focused on the embassy's security in Lebanon, and an assessment with Lebanese officials hope will bring an end to the US travel ban.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor received may 2 a letter from Interlope saying "there are no extradition agreements on embezzlement charges between US and Lebanon". Lebanon asked the extradition of Roger Tamraz, a Lebanese-American businessman who is wanted here for embezzlement charges dating back to the late 1980. Tamraz, 57, was accused by the Lebanese government of embezzling $200mn from the collapsed Intra group of financial institutions when he was chairman.

- American singer Ray Charles has canceled a contact for two concerts in Beiteddine in Chuf-Lebanon this summer after the state department, citing the travel ban, cautioned him against making the trip to Lebanon.

Beiteddine festival's officials said they received a letter from Charle's agent in the USA canceling the July 25-26 concerts.


- Israel claimed it has gained upper hand over Hizbullah backed Islamic resistance in south Lebanon because of spate of desertions from the group, Israeli Brig Gen Elie Amitai said. Amitai, who commands the Israeli force which controls the the security zone in south, said "a new situation has existed which has given us a clear superiority over Hizbullah. The organization has been hit by numerous desertions and is having difficulties gaining recruits because of the growing standard of living in Lebanon which isolates them from religion". Amitai also claimed that "Hizbullah was leading fewer attacks and the Israeli forces has found effective ways of combating the group, both militarily and on the intelligence level. The Israeli air force has changed the picture in the last few months by using new and much more accurate weapons. Operations in which warplanes, helicopter gunships, and assault helicopters took part have caused Hizbullah to shrink. The Israeli forces has recently uncovered a large Hizbullah arms cache near the Litani river which included 17 Strella anti aircraft missiles.

-Hizbullah senior source said in comment "Amitai remarks are not worthy of any response. The next resistance operation will prove to Amitai and the Israeli leadership how wrong their analysis of the situation is". Hizbullah deputy S.G Sheikh Naim Kassem said "Israeli news on supplying the SLA with sophisticated weapons aimed at prom up the morale of its soldiers and its proxy militia following the painful blows they suffered of the increased resistance activity". He said "Even if they are going to supply new weapons, they do not have the man power to operate it and Israel cannot depend on Lahd SLA to play an effective security role."

-Security sources in south Lebanon said the Hizbullah had stepped up attacks on the SLA militia positions in April. While only two Israeli soldiers wounded last month, the SLA lost five men and ten others were wounded. The number of operations went up from 35 in March to 47 in April.

-Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over south Lebanon May 2 and twice broke the sound barrier over Beirut. Israeli and SLA artillery fired barrages at resistance hideouts east and west of the security zone. No casualties were reported.

News In Brief

-Four judges absence delayed Constitutional Council ruling on the legality of 17 parliamentary seats. Yesterday's session was canceled after three members were reported hospitalized though their illness could be political.

The lack of quorum fueled speculations that the council will not be able to hand down a verdict on the challenges before May 4, when the term of four council's members expires. The four seats have to be filled by lottery by July 4 and the council will also have to choose a replacement of jurist Wajdi Mallat. News reports said three of the appeals were accepted including appeals by Robert Ghanem in West Bekaa, Mahmoud Yehe in Akkar, and Nazem Khoury in Jbeil, who will win parliament seats.

-Head of Japanese parliamentary delegation, representing the ruling Liberal Democratic Party LDP now visiting Beirut, said the increase of Japanese tourists number is a sign of growing confidence. Chairman of the LDP general council Yoshirou Mori visited president Elias Hrawi, Baalbeck ruins, and toured the Beirut downtown district. He said he discussed with the president the issue of the five Japanese Red Army members currently awaiting trial, and that he hopes they would be handed to Japan once the judicial process had ended.

-Beirut MP Tammam Salam said after meeting with president Hrawi he will work on shortening the parliament's term. He said he wishes the authorities particularly the president to understand the outcries and complaints of the economical situation and uneasy circumstances and try to stand for it with responsibility and level.

-NLP party under Douri Chamoun warned May 2 of the tendency among the officials to appoint the municipal councils after they had reached agreement on canceling the elections. The NLP said the appointment will definitely destroy the entire political life and cripple the local councils work.

-Beirut Bar Association said the MPs would reject extending their term and the campaigns against the judicial body is definitely harming its credibility.

-Lebanon foreign minister ended visit to Tunisia and scheduled to go next to Romania and Canada.

-LBC news bulletin annex Thursday, broadcasted later by Hizbullah T.V station Al Manar, saying a blast explosion took place at Sidon MP Mustafa Saad's residence evoked tension in the southern town and its vicinity.  Hundreds of Saad supporters rushed to the scene together with ambulances and army also ISF patrols but it was realized that the news were wrong and incorrect. The two T.V stations were given the information by someone who claimed he is speaking on behalf of their reporter who is covering the incident at spot.

-Copts Pope Shenuda, now visiting Syria to attend the M.E churches council's conference to discuss Jerusalem case, has been warmly received in Damascus. He addressed the audience at Abu Nour mosque in Damascus and said "there will be no peace with the Israeli occupation of land". Shenuda denied any political motive of his visit to Syria and said he has no comment on the visit of the Pope to Lebanon.

Sports Round Up

- Lebanon national football team is to leave Monday to Kuwait to play with Kuwait counterpart in the finals of the Asian group 7 on 8th May at 7.00 p.m. evening. Lebanon has equaled with Singapore 1-1, and Singapore was defeated by Kuwait 2-0 in Singapore.

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