News from Beirut June 14  1997 ...Search

UN Assembly-Qana Resolution

Lebanon's foreign minister Fares Boueiz described UN general assembly's voting June 13th to endorse a resolution on Qana's damages as a "victory in the UN's battle to maintain its credibility". He said the vote was in favor of Lebanon and proved the UN's credibility in facing pressure, but it should work on implementing its decisions to sustain its credibility.

Speaker Nabih Berri said the decision was "a victory for the bloodshed at Qana".

Prior to the vote, the government rejected a US compromise that called for changing the wording of the resolution so that it did not name Israel as being responsible for the Qana attack. Instead it proposed the shelling be refered to as an "incident", sources said. US embassy charge d'affairs Ron Schlicher had conveyed the proposal to foreign minister Boueiz during a meeting yesterday.

Lebanese media today described the voting as a diplomatic and moral victory for Lebanon, though the UN general assembly's resolution is not binding. The 127 vote in favor stem that its a convenient climate to condemn Israel at time the M.E. peace process is facing substantial obstacles. However, some Lebanese political circles did not drop the possibility that Lebanon be posed to retaliatory measures, after it received a US threat to undermine the usually routine renewal of the UNIFIL mandate next month. The circles also expected reflections of the case on the lift of the travel ban on Lebanon.

Israel immediately denounced the vote and declared it would not pay the $1.7mn sum. Israeli envoy David Peleg, speaking before the assembly's vote, said the resolution is "fundamentally flawed". "Israel rejects this resolution in both letter and spirit and is bound by no legal and moral responsibility for reimbursing the amount", Peleg said.

Hariri; Two Hard Years Ahead, No Complementation With Syria

Prime minister Rafic Hariri, choosing to speak in Ashrafieh with its privacy, denied that the two government's decisions, on agriculture and car imports, are a prelude of changing the economy system or economical complementation with Syria. Hariri, celebrating end of rehabilitation of Sassine square in Ashrafieh, defended his government's two decisions though admitted it were not popular. He affirmed that economy will remain free and "Syria has its own economy and different living styles". He said the former governments found it difficult to involve itself in such issues and postponing it was not a solution but instead make it more harder. He frankly told the celebrators and the people that "We have from one year, or one year and half, and perhaps two years, of hardtime period and there should be cooperation between the government and the people to find out job vacancies". He wished the citizens to understand these two decisions and said they are inevitable and indispensable. He urged investing in agriculture and industry "So that the country surmount this stage and ready itself to join the European partnership and GAT agreements".

Reports this evening said Mr. Hariri held over three hour talks today in Damascus with Syrian president Hafez Assad. Earlier in the day he held talks with Syrian senior officials namely vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. The economic conference in Doha, regional issues, and bilateral relations were topics of discussion.

Government -Decisions

Economy minister Yassin Jaber revealed that the the bill proposing ban on certain agricultural goods was placed before the cabinet only 15 minutes before Tuesday's vote. He said he was told that the ministers will be allowed "a lengthy discussion" of its merits and pitfalls, and the agriculture minister had willingly taken responsibility for the controversial ban and refused to share the consequences. Jaber said he refuse to be responsible for any price controls, and having to use the army to chase people with banned vegetables in the back of their trucks.

Agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury yesterday ruled out a rise in the prices of agricultural products as a result of curbs on food imports. He said committees had been assigned to monitor the cost and quality of local produce. Fakhoury noted that if a produce became prohibitively expensive, his ministry and that of the economy and trade may decide to allow its import for a limited time. Mr. Fakhoury said the pricing committees had been formed Thursday and would work in coordination with the ministry of economy and trade. He said he will suggest establishing more public markets to allow consumers direct access to agricultural products, as well as steps to reinforce the role of agricultural cooperatives, and reduce production costs. The minister said some people did not understand the aim of the plan. "Will the protection of citrus fruit, apples, grapes, vegetables, milk jeopardize Lebanon's economic relationships", he asked.

Speaker Nabih Berri said "some politicians argued that the ban will harm our relations with other countries, but we should look after the interests of our own people before formulating our foreign policy". He, however, expected, judging on past experiences, that the law would not be implemented correctly. He cited the Somali banana import as an example, while "30,000 tonnes of home grown bananas are currently an excess , "and as the current situation stands, Lebanon is purely a market for foreign produce".

Prime minister Hariri yesterday, in defending the measures, said although Lebanon dubbed a country of services, it could not depend solely on that as a source of revenue. He denied the measure would lead to more expensive local produce, saying"We are here, officials and citizens, to cooperate and prevent this from happening".

News analysts today said the government could not go ahead with its tax policy that is in contrast of a social economical problem that is steadily growing without being the local master of the game, overcoming all other local players, and under the shadow of a revived troika rule system.

News In Brief

The NLP party under Douri Chamoun said the Lebanese are living on a social and economical volcano that threats to blow anytime. The party said the haphazardous increases reflect the budget deficit, lack of subjective approach to issues of economy and reconstruction, and the absence of a list of priorities,. The NLP said perhaps the time nears for the scheme of ending the Lebanese economic system, shifting it not only to a system unable to compete, but put it under a hegemony of Lebanon's potential and decision making.

-Lebanon political group's reaction, to the US parliament decision recognizing Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel, said its the mercy bullet on the peace talks between Arabs and Israel.

-Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday met Hizbullah secretary general Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Its the first since the earlier meeting on Feb this year. They discussed the living conditions and developments in south Lebanon and west Bekaa.

-Islamic resistance claimed responsibility of attacks against the SLA outposts at Anan-Jezzine, Sojod, Mishnaqa, and Qassir. Israeli and SLA artillery fired more than 50 shells at the the outskirts of the villages Majdel Silim, Khirbet Silim, and Sawaneh. No casualties were reported. Amal movement claimed responsibility of an attack against the SLA post at Masharoun. Amal movement buried yesterday Hisham Fahs, a sea suicider bomber who attempted to launch first such resistance naval attack against an Israeli navy vessel off Tyre three weeks ago. The burial took place after his body was washed ashore near Tyre.

- By-elections final runners: 9 Sunni and 5 Maronites for the two Maronite and Sunni seats in Akkar, 2 Maronites for the maronite seat in west Bekaa, and 4 maronites for the maronite seat in Byblos. The total runners, after the deadline expired midnight yesterday, are 20.

-Muslim clerics on Friday gave main focus to the deterioration of the living conditions. Some clergy said the Lebanese went out of the military militia rule to fall under the money militias. Leader of the "revolt of the Starved" sheikh Subhi Tufeili is not hidden and his aide said he is determined on the the date 4th July to start civil rebellion. Hizbullah secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the resistance against Israel is not a political party nor it is a way of earning living but it is a doorway to dignity and pride.

-The Lebanese community in Africa must learn to work hand in hand with their host countries and to drop the "get rich quick" attitude, according to Lebanese-born Nael Assaad, who heads Congo's economic development and acts as adviser to Congolese president. Assaad said "Africa is a continent of partnership, and the Lebanese should treat it as their second homeland. We are partners in the economy of Africa not abusers of this opportunity".

-The last MEA plane to evacuate Lebanese citizens from the strife-torn Sierra Leone and Congo is due to arrive from Conakry today.

-Zghorta yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of the assassination of MP Tony Franjieh, his wife, their daughter, and 31 followers. Representatives of Lebanon's three top officials attended the ceremony, together with the health minister and his family, and crowds of civic and religious figures.

-Samir Geagea defendants yesterday held meeting at Geagea's residence in presence of his wife. They discussed the conditions in his detention at the defense ministry in Yarze and other relevant legal issues. They are going to meet the state prosecutor Adnan Addoum on Monday to review his legal rights.

-Hizbullah backed Lebanese Media Group Company, which runs the T.V station "Al Manar" and radio station "Annour", said the decision of the national council on audio-visual media was unfair and harmful in rejecting its license application.

-The Japanese Red Army Five's court's session Monday is to listen to witnesses including officer in the state security agency. Head of the court prohibited taking photos and entering cellular telephones.

-State prosecutor Adnan Addoum inspected yesterday the notorious Roumieh prison, often criticised for being overcrowded and lacking many basic facilities. Up to 3,000 inmates are held at Roumieh prison with some are convicts and others are waiting trial, there are additional 88 convicted drug addicts in protective custody, 63 juvenile delinquents are kept in special wards, 40 mentally ill patients, a special section for 16 prisoners with chronic diseases, and 6 HIV positive inmates who are isolated in a special cell. Mr Addoum said his visit was not made to meet certain prisoners but to inspect detention conditions in the prison.

Sports Round Up

-900 labour and 20 engineer are working 20 hour per day to complete works at the sport city in Beirut in preparation for the Arab 8th sport tournament on 12th July. The opening is expected on 30th June.

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