News from Beirut June 23  1997 ...Search

The Hunger Revolution And the Counter Emergency Plan

- Sheikh Subhi Tufeili set deadline for a hunger revolution on 4th of July was a top story today, next to developments in south Lebanon. Bekaa MPs met at the government Serail in Baalbeck on Sunday to see to the region's development and living condition. The MPs announced list of 11 demand on decentralization, implementing major projects in all various fields such as irrigation, electricity, water, agriculture, hospitalization, and education. The MPs meeting and a speech by house speaker Nabih Berri in Bekaa, were both regarded here as counter steps to the move planned by Tufeili.

- House speaker Nabih Berri, who went to Bekaa to participate in the memorial of a notable mayor at the town of Nabi Chit, called for an emergency plan to alleviate the huge socioeconomic problems in Bekaa and Akkar regions.. He said the government should take steps that avert turning its citizens into beggars in their own country. He proposed a joint committee including the Council for Development and Reconstruction CDR and ministries in charge of services to deal with the areas' rampant poverty problems. He said this committee, with full authority from the government, should start immediate development of all services. Mr. Berri said implementing a comprehensive plan for developing the most deprived regions "should not exceed the year 2,000, not even by one day". He urged the government to speed up the zoning of farm lands in the next 18 months. He added that some of the money allocated for buying the tobacco crops should be channeled toward the development of farmland on the banks of Orontes river.

- Sheikh Tufeili on his part, commenting on both the speaker and the MPs, said "the entire state is now admitting that the area is deprived and that it has demands and rights". "Some of the officials are now saying the area had been deprived since 40 years. If I am deprived since then, haven't I the right to demand, and should I remain 40 more years deprived". Tufeili argued if the rush for holding meetings and visiting the area were because the Bekaa is in hunger really or because signals of anger are showing up. He said no one should imagine he can lie to us and play smart, because the hunger revolution will continue until all rights are reached. Political analysts in Beirut said Tufeili's move is a signal to the US on the possible revive of extremism as well as a signal of replanting drugs in north Bekaa.

South Lebanon, Escalation and Maneuvering

-Lebanon's prime minister Rafic Hariri left at noon today to Damascus after consultation on phone this mourning with Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. News reports said the current tensed situation in south Lebanon and the delicacy of the present developments there are on top of agenda of the talks. President Elias Hrawi was quoted this morning telling his visitors that Lebanon rejects Israel's new-old maneuvers including the "Lebanon's First and Jezzine's First”.The issue of Jezzine was a main focus among other local dominant topics. He observed on Sunday that the Israelis are anxious more than any other time of the resistance operations and they are embarrassed before their people, and perhaps they are looking for a way out to withdraw partially but same time seeking to provoke a Lebanese internal problem.

-Israel's defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, speaking yesterday at a rally marking the 15th anniversary of the Israeli 1982 invasion of Lebanon, said "We have no interest in remaining in Lebanon. We want to get out in an agreement that will ensure security and peace for the residents of north Israel and the citizens in south Lebanon". Mordechai added that Israel will continue to act with all means at its disposal, on the one hand to reach an agreement, and on the other, to support its soldiers and officers to continue the holy war for all of us". Modrechai had asked France to initiate a proposal that allows Israel to pull out from the occupied security zone.

- Lebanon's foreign minister Fares Boueiz, in comment, said the Israeli government and Mordechai know well that the only solution for the security problem in the south lies in the implementation of the UN resolution 425 and withdrawal of the Israeli forces. Boueiz added that a political solution could be arranged if Israel was willing to return to the negotiation's table "and continue from where it ended in the way they were expected to continue". He was referring to peace for land formula. Boueiz urged Jezzine people to remain in the town.

-The international cease-fire monitoring committee started already its meeting today at Naqoura in south Lebanon to examine three complaints including two presented by Lebanon and one by Israel. The Lebanese complaints dealt with the firing on Saturday of two artillery shells at the village of Maghdouche, south of Sidon and a Christian predominant town and Israeli officers threatening Lebanese residents of the village of Arnoun to deport women out, jail all the young males, and burn down the farmers crops. The Israeli complaint dealt with resistance blasts explosion in the area of Jezzine. The G7+Russia summit in Denver-Colorado welcomed "the important role of the cease-fire committee to enhance the understanding reached in April last year and Lessening of risks on civilians in south Lebanon and Israel".

-On Saturday, two artillery shells struck the village of Maghdouche, one landed in a garden and failed to explode, another was detonated at the house of local priest of the town who was not at home. No casualties were reported among the town's 5,000 population. Questions such as why the Christian town was shelled remained unanswered. The SLA commander Antoine Lahd had threatened to retaliate outside of the occupied security zone if the resistance continued planting roadside bombs in the Jezzine's area. He said last week he would threaten to spread the war to other parts of south Lebanon including Sidon, Nabatieh, Tyre, and the coastal road. The two shells were fired one day after his warning and minutes after Hizbullah claimed responsibility of a mortar attack at the SLA post at Sojod. Sidon's bishop George Kweiter argued that perhaps it is an attempt to provoke the central government in Beirut. Lebanese security sources suggested that there two shells have been aimed at the coastal road rather than Maghdouche and that the SLA has missed the target. Maghdouche lies few hundred metres from the road. The same source said it is unlikely that Israel is trying to stir sectarian tension in the region. Other source suggested that the firing of the two shells by the SLA was a signal of a potential split between the SLA and Israel. The source said perhaps the SLA was provoked by Mordechai's statement Friday on seeking France's help to find a way to pull out. They said "it is possible that SLA commander Lahd was feeling threatened by Mordechai and are acting unilaterally". Speculation of an Israeli pull out from the pocket of Jezzine back to Litani river has grown in recent months, fueling suspicion among the increasingly demoralized SLA that it could be side lined if Israel redeploys further south. Observers in Beirut are aware that the area south east of Sidon would be the target of tension in the coming stage.

-Two Israeli warplanes raided Saturday the top hill of Mlita in the Iqlim Toffah and fired two air to surface missiles. A blast exploded at Dowar in the vicinity of Arnoun village near Nabatieh.Six Irish peace keepers were injured Saturday, one seriously, when an Israeli planted land mine exploded near the village of Beit Yahoun. One of the Irish soldiers lost a foot to the Israeli land mine.

-Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the situation had been blown out of proportion. He said "the resistance only role is to fight the enemy and every bomb it plants is recognized and announced. We are careful not to hurt innocent people". Nasrallah said the recent operations in Jezzine have nothing special or different than the other operations the resistance had performed. He said any Israeli withdrawal is a victory for Hizbullah.

-The Arab League's assistant secretary general Mohammed Zakariya Ismail in a declaration Sunday deplored the Israeli military aggressions and said it is a blackmail of the Arab parties who are concerned in the peace process.

-Patriarch Sfair on Sunday argued why the Jezzine area is evicted of its residents through creating an atmosphere of panic among them, also argued to who's interest buyers of Damour land are rushing to evict its original residents. He said "it's not exaggeration to say that if the area was displaced the entire Lebanon will be facing danger".

Hariri-Renaming Sport City

-Prime minister Hariri regretted the sectarian address on the renaming of the sport city. He said now more than any other time a new election law should be laid down in order to force an MP to address the nation not his sect or community. Mr. Hariri said "We did not name the city and perhaps we would not, as we are not in need of new sectarian atmosphere."Yesterday, we opened the Charles Helou transport station and we did not change the name, neither we changed the Beshara Khoury street name. Its not the renaming issue but it is a sabotage of the reconstruction work ".

-Mr Hariri, before his travel today to Damascus, opened the segment of the highway linking Beirut to south and which extended between Damour and Jieh. Hariri circles said his buying of late president Chamoun's palace in Saadiyat was under persistence of Douri Chamoun who was in bad need for money to settle his financial obligations.

-Foreign minister Boueiz said on Sunday he was "strongly opposed to any attempt to change the name". Boueiz said "Denying the name of Camille Chamoun is not only an act of piracy but also a political provocation that the country does not need". The minister argued whether Beirut's name might be changed and the capital be dubbed after a company involved in the reconstruction policy.

News In Brief

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said on Sunday that Lebanon has dropped its demand for an end to the decade -long US travel ban because the US is using the issue as a tool to pressure Lebanon on regional issues. Boueiz comment came at a time a report from the US said Mrs Albright wanted to take a new look at the ban. The ban which is renewable every six months will come for next review in July. French president Chirac has told president Clinton at Denver summit in Colorado that he does not think the travel ban was justified in the present climate. Boueiz said the ban did not prevent American nationals from traveling to Lebanon, but it is harming the American business interest.

-European Union peace envoy Moratinos ended Sunday his three day visit to Beirut where he met senior officials. He spent the weekend in Byblos, and visited the Palestinian camp of Ain Helwe on Saturday. He said he was surprised of the miserable refugee camp. Moratinos said he will come back to Lebanon end of July to attend Baalbeck festival. On Saturday afternoon he went to Bkerke to attend wedding ceremony of former ambassador Simon Karam and held a brief meeting with Patriarch Sfair.

-Government permission to the London based MBC television to transmit from Lebanon allegedly said to be granted by prime minister Hariri during June 4 cabinet session, without any announcement and without being made public, drew criticism of the step. There are questions raised on the legality of the decision and its contrast to Lebanon's media law. Information minister Bassem Sabbaa trying to defend the decision and clarify the issue, said the cabinet "welcomed any Arab media activity that aims at strengthening Lebanon's international cultural and media position". Sabbaa denied that the Saudi owned MBC station was granted secretly a permission to establish a station, but was given only facilities to broadcast programs from Lebanon in framework of the law in effect.

-The Armenian Tashnak party organized a rally on Saturday in protest to Turkey-Israel's alliance at the Homentmen stadium in Anjar.

-Lebanon is top five countries hooked on Marlboros and other famous US cigarettes. While the US tobacco companies are under fire in the US, the same firms are finding a growing portion of their profits coming from friendlier and larger markets abroad.

-Delegation representing the US department of agriculture discussed with minister of agriculture the arrival of the first batch of US dairy cows to Lebanon.

Sports Round Up

-Lebanon football team failed again with Kuwait in the 7th finals of the world cup 16. Kuwait defeated Lebanon with 3-1 at Sunday game at Burj Hammoud stadium.

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