News from Beirut June 20 1997 ...Search

Lebanon-Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah Visit

- Saudi Arabia crown prince Abdullah ben Abdel-Aziz is due to arrive Thursday to Lebanon by land from Syria accompanied by a 140 man delegation. The crown prince is traveling to Syria and Egypt (Tuesday and Wednesday). Beirut is one of the stations of the tour which aims at boosting Arab solidarity in view of the blocked M.E. peace process. The visit to Lebanon was the first on such high level during the past 20 years and since the beginning of the Lebanese war. Despite Prime minister Hariri's repeated visits to Saudi Arabia and his close relation with King Fahd, the crown prince is first of such high ranking Saudi official to visit Lebanon. The Saudi investors and the kingdom's lending institutions have already assumed a key role in the reconstruction projects. President Elias Hrawi was the first to announce the visit yesterday at the cabinet session at Baabda. Hrawi said it is a further proof of the bright future ahead. One of Lebanon's dailies said "Abdullah leads Saudi invasion of businessmen". News reports said the visit will be either for a day long or perhaps continues Thursday and Friday. Hrawi noted that the country had in recent weeks been graced by the visit of Pope John Paul II, and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed, and those have coupled with the diplomatic victory at the UN general assembly last week. He said those all combined provide the country with a needed morale boost. One of the leading dailies said The cabinet session has shown "solidarity" among its members and the minister's sense of responsibility provided a convenient atmosphere prior to the Saudi official's visit.

Cabinet Decisions, What's Next

-Information minister Bassem Sabbaa yesterday, after the cabinet session at Baabda palace under president Hrawi, announced that the government will go ahead in its decisions on custom duties and agriculture imports ban, and it will make no changes on the decision. Sabbaa said "The cabinet decision on agriculture leaves a big open window regarding the import of agricultural goods if the local market required so". He also said no amendments were made to the lists that were distributed after last week's cabinet meeting. The cabinet has reaffirmed and reconfirmed its last week decision despite the massive opposition of the decisions. Custom duties on imported cars remained unchanged. However, ministers including Fares Boueiz, Walid Jumblat, who was present at the session after a long absence "to remind them I am still alive", Suleiman Franjieh, Nicolas Fattouche, and Mahmoud abu Hamdan, proposed that the custom minimum duty of L.L 5mn be reduced to half, and the maximum duty of 200,000 L.L be reduced to half too, but the proposal was put down. Another proposal, to allow car importers to register cars they have imported before the rise according to former duty, and which are still at the seaport, was also put down. Prime minister Hariri said the ministers of economy and agriculture will fix shortly the mechanism which will be adopted in implementing the decisions before the decision go into effect as of Oct 1. Leading reports today said none of the ministers was willing to resent, and all of them have shown conviction and acceptance to the principle of cabinet solidarity. However, The reaction of those opposing the decisions, is still yet to be watched.

-Among other decisions, the cabinet endorsed a draft bill to appoint state employees in the foreign ministry with at least law degree (ignoring the civil service board). A draft bill amending some provisions of the municipalities and mayors law was not passed yet until a mini cabinet meeting next week.

South Lebanon-Jezzine Security

-Jezzine people continue for the second day today their strike and demonstration to protest the recent spate of explosions carried by the Islamic resistance on the main roads and inside villages. The region's MPs moved to call official and religious authorities. Their contacts included president Hrawi, prime minister Hariri, house speaker Berri, Patriarch Sfair, the papal nuncio, and Hizbullah. Jezzine MP and minister of industry Nadim Salem placed the issue at the cabinet session and demanded protection of Jezzine people through the state. The official announcement following the cabinet session said "the issue has been discussed, with emphasis on the role of the resistance to face the occupation and its agents, and the role of the Lebanese authority to enhance steadfastness of all the south people". News analyst today argued who is beneficent of dropping Jezzine neutralism after three years of committing that stand. The analyst said Jezzine is not the suitable place to exchange violence messages, and operations in the region is not a gain to resistance and are not harmful to Israel.

- Hizbullah's source said "We tell the people in Jezzine they are our steadfast people, and they can move safely along all roads in Jezzine. They should not fear the resistance which knows they are our people, and work to bring them back to the homeland". The source added that the resistance would have not succeeded in its operations and chase the Israeli agents without cooperation of large part of the occupied land's people and "our Christian people in Jezzine". Hizbullah said "We know that Jezzine was the first to start resistance by rejecting Israel's compulsory military service by evacuating away out of Jezzine. The source said "Hizbullah considers the people in Jezzine and in the occupied zone as partners in chasing the enemy and its agents".

- Israeli helicopter gun ships flew over the town of Sidon overnight at 10.00 p.m. for 10 minutes drawing air defenses fire. The Israeli warplanes flew over Iqlim Toffah. Reports said an Israeli force entered the town of Jezzine yesterday and carried a large scale inspection.

- Official sources said Israel filed two complaints against Lebanon amid the explosions in Jezzine "because of the killing of four Lebanese civilians and wounding two others near the town". The five national cease-fire monitoring committee is to meet Monday to discuss the complaint. Lebanese security sources insisted that the four killed in Jezzine region's explosions were SLA officers and an SLA militiamen. Hizbullah had claimed responsibility of the "extermination" of the Israeli agents upon directives of its secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.


-European Union's M.E. peace envoy Miguel Moratinos arrived to Beirut today in land coming from Damascus. He met first with foreign minister Fares Boueiz. Moratinos is to meet Lebanon's senior officials and lectures on the peace process at Kaslik university. Moratinos is shuttling between Syria and Israel in an effort to restart the peace talks. Moratinos is to visit the Palestinian camp of Ain Helwe tomorrow and leaves for Vienna on Sunday.

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz yesterday received a US non governmental group's 15 man delegation representing the council for national security. The head of the delegation Eugene Bird said after the meeting the group opposes the US administration's pro Israel lobby and want to correct the US policy toward the M.E. Bird called for implementation of the UN 425 resolution and unilateral withdrawal of Israel's forces. He said there is no interest for the US in having Israel continues its occupation to south Lebanon. The delegation arrived yesterday from Amman-Jordan in a 48 hour fact finding mission.

-Norway deputy foreign minister Jan Egeland accompanied by Norway's ambassador in Lebanon held talks with prime minister Hariri, army commander Gen. Lahoud, UNIFIL's commander and high ranking officials and officers. He visited south Lebanon Rashidiye camp. Mr Egeland said his country will continue to participate in UNIFIL, and increase aid to Lebanese people and Palestinian refugees through the UN and other non governmental organizations. He noted that around 30,000 Norwegian troops have taken part in the UNIFIL since 1978. He said the resignations in the Norwegian Battalions last month was due to new taxes imposed on Norwegian servicemen, and was a reaction to a problem in the Norwegian army as a whole, and not restricted to the battalion stationed in Lebanon only.

-Foreign ministry's director general Zafer el Hassan yesterday received ambassadors of the Netherlands, Italy, and Britain who briefed him on the outcome of the European summit held recently in Amsterdam.

-Prime minister Rafic Hariri discussed yesterday with the US embassy charge d'affaires Ronald Schlicher the aid programs promised by Washington during the Friends of Lebanon forum. Schlicher said he discussed the agriculture aid program GSM 103 and ways it could be used to help a viable Lebanon's dairy industry. He said the US military aid to Lebanon has shifted from re-equipping the army to upgrade its logistical capabilities and training its troops. Lebanon's purchases from the US warehouses in Europe have been delivered with only few helicopters remain. The USAID agency has named recently a director for its Lebanon's branch. The director is now James Stephenson, who is the first in Lebanon for almost a decade. The USAID will focus on rural areas and development of small industry, also will oversee the delivery of 3,000 dairy cows from the US, with the first batch due to arrive early September.

-The German ambassador at a visit to north Lebanon said his country is providing 60 per cent of the European Union assistance to Lebanon.

Gen. Michel Aoun-US Entry Visa

-The PSP party under minister Walid Jumblat yesterday said in a statement that inviting Gen. Aoun and former president Amin Gemayel to Washington is "one of the chains of the conspiracy against the Lebanese government and people". The PSP statement said "Mr. Wallach (under secretary of the state department) is to be reminded that the invitation to both of them is from a US official party, and not relevant to consular or consular matter". The PSP advised the US administration "to grant both of them the US nationality to avert embarrassment”.

-Informed sources in the US said the US administration refused an entry visa request by Gen. Michel Aoun in order to participate at a session of the congress international relation's committee on 25th June. The session is devoted to discuss Lebanon's situation. The invitation by congress included former president Amin Gemayel too.

News In Brief

- Education minister Jean Obeid yesterday visited the official examinations centers on the first day of the Bacc II exams. Ministry statistics said 11,320 are sitting for Bacc II philosophy in 43 centers all over Lebanon.

- Beirut MP Najah Wakim condemned the level of corruption in the judiciary and demanded a parliamentary committee be formed to investigate the case. Wakim criticized the government socioeconomic policies and encouraged the Lebanese people to support the hunger revolution called by Sheikh Subhi Tufeili. He questioned the government on the integrity of the judiciary following what he called "unjustified actions". He said the last recent action was the arrest of the GLC Elias abu Rizk and Yasser Nemeh. Wakim said the judiciary has deteriorated during prime minister Hariri's four and half years in office. The MP stressed the need "to work with honest judges to save the judiciary from the damage it had suffered at the hands of the present government". Wakim presented questions including how the judges of Beirut downtown property evaluation's committee were appointed, who appoints the evaluation committee members, namely of  Elissar and Solidere, and why sons and daughters of some judges were appointed in private companies owned by prime minister Hariri.

-People of Damour said selling their land was under the pressure of the stalled compensations, the economical hardships, and their desperate of the possible return to their coastal hometown. They said the new buyers are not from the area, not from Chuf, and said they observe that the area's demography is now shifting.

-News today said the observers in Beirut did not believe that the reason of canceling the US embassy traditional 4th July reception was due to finance.

-Batroun MP Boutros Harb yesterday said he rejects changing name of the sport city and that is "something that won't easily be passed". He said he is ready, with any others, to confront this attempt "because it is insult to our entire history".

-Najjadeh party under Mustafa Hakim yesterday said if the party has the right to ask, it is better and more convenient to name the sport city in the name of the one who rebuild it, that is Rafic Hariri.

-62 Maronite retired army and security officer yesterday held a meeting to discuss the Maronite League's election. They reviewed names of the candidates to the executive board. Patriarch Sfair discussed the issue with his visitors and he is working on a consensus. Piere Helou, who announced earlier he will run for the presidency of the league, met some of its members, and presented his program.

-Robert Ghanem, who has emerged unopposed in the west Bekaa by elections, after withdrawal of his rival Henri Chedid, received congratulations of his supporters. In Byblos by election, Nazem Khoury accused minister Elie Hubeika of openly intervening in favour of his rival Emile Nawfal, who's election result was nullified by the Constitutional Council. Mikhael Daher is the leading runner for the by elections in north for the Maronite seat.

-Head of the parliamentary foreign relation's committee MP Ali Khalil notified the Turkish ambassador in Lebanon of the committee's recommendation to the government here to cut diplomatic ties with Turkey, in view of the Turkish incursion into Iraq and its alliance with Israel.

-Lebanon's ambassador in Sierra Leone Mohammed Zeed, now in Beirut to be hospitalized of exhaustion, said the Lebanese community in Sierra Leone are the strongest, they are the forefront of the economical life in the African country, and do not interfere in political affairs.

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