News from Beirut June 24  1997 ...Search

East Sidon's Kfarfalous Crossing reopen

-The 12 years closed crossing of Kfarfalous east of Sidon linking Jezzine to Sidon is to reopen to traffic and orders to enforce the measure were given already by the army command and concerned authority, fresh report said at noon today. The reopening was persistently requested by the people of Jezzine during their recent calls to the the country's senior officials. House speaker Nabih Berri, prime minister Hariri, and the army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud worked out the decision after reaching consensus on the move. Patriarch Sfair was informed of the decision which was a response to Jezzine people's wish. Berri declared that Jezzine is one of the south Lebanon's steadfast towns and it is not for trading neither for eviction and it will remain a symbol of Lebanon's unity and legitimacy. The move came in the wake of three recent blast explosions in the Jezzine area and the speculation over the future of the predominant Christian town,

Cease-fire Monitoring Panel

-The international cease-fire monitoring committee today at the end of its 12th meeting since last year April's understanding blamed no party for the recent violation of the cease-fire. The committee examined since yesterday three complaints filed by both Israel and Lebanon. The cease-fire committee said in final conclusion that the parties concerned are responsible of the way the operations were carried. It accepted as factual the complaints of the two sides. Lebanon's delegation to the monitoring panel presented video tapes and records proving that the four men killed in Jezzine recently were SLA men collaborating with Israel and not civilians as Israel claimed. The Lebanese side said Israeli complaint was baseless because all the victims were Lebanese.The Lebanese delegation said the artillery shells that struck the town of Maghdouche signaled an Israeli scheme to expand its military operation's zone. The delegation said that Israel is exercising state terrorism through its warning to evict the residents of the village Arnoun.

-Meanwhile, Israel refused accusations of the UNIFIL saying it had removed a fence around a land mine field in south Lebanon and told the peace keepers the road across the land mine is safe. Israeli military spokesman said his country refuse the UNIFIL's blame because the field was well known and surrounded by a fence. The UNIFIL's blame came after six Irish soldiers were wounded in a land mine explosion near their post in south Lebanon. One of the six lost his left leg.

-Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem said in Beirut that the party's blasts are killing only agents of Israel because they were carefully chosen according to information from the people in and out of Jezzine. He said the claim that the civilians were target is not true. He called the people in the occupied security zone not to take roads that lead only to Israeli and SLA posts because these are only for the enemy and its agents. Hizbullah MP Mohammed Fneish said the agents of Israel have no immunity at all and they will be continuously chased until they flee away and desert the SLA and join their parents. He said Hizbullah possessed a record of the SLA commander Antoine Lahd personally commemorating the SLA officers that were killed in Jezzine recently, and that is a proof they were not civilians.

Hariri-Damascus Talks

-Prime minister Hariri talks in Damascus yesterday focused on the current situation in south Lebanon especially Israel's attempt to provoke trouble and Israel's repeated leaks on withdrawal of its forces. The Israeli latest maneuver was asking France to mediate an agreement with Lebanon to pull out its forces. The proposed mediation, which France denied, was the core of Hariri talks in Damascus. Lebanese government sources denied that Lebanon received any Israeli proposal via Paris such as "Lebanon's First", or "Jezzine's First". The sources said these leaks aimed directly to separate Lebanese peace track from the Syrian track. During his visit which continued until after midnight Hariri held talks with Dr. Bashar Assad at a launch. This is third such meeting in two month time. Hariri held talks earlier with vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam and Gen. Hikmat Chehabi. The prime minister's visit came prior to the scheduled visit to Syria by Saudi crown prince Abdullah. The Saudi heir will arrive Thursday to Beirut in a first such visit by a Saudi high ranking official to Lebanon since 1975. The visit will continue until Saturday and he will be hosted at Hariri residence at Qoreitem. Hariri described the visit as an extremely important indicator and an act of confidence in Lebanon, its security, stability, and development drive. He told Saudi media that the basis of the peace drive in Lebanon was the accord signed in Taif in Saudi Arabia. Hariri told the Saudi media that his government is thinking to allow all Arab airliners open flights to Beirut during the summer season "to encourage the Arab brothers to come to Lebanon for tourism and summer holiday, since Lebanon feels its the second homeland for all the Arabs, particularly for the Saudi brothers".

President Hrawi-Superpower Arabs

-Lebanon's president Elias Hrawi, addressing yesterday representatives of 15 Arab countries participating in a two day conference on administrative development, urged the Arab countries to unite to form a new world superpower. Speaking to the Arab countries representatives who called him at Baabda palace he cited the endorsement of UN general assembly's resolution blaming Israel for Qana attack as a proof of the Arabs potential as a united force.

-President Hrawi received a message from Libyan leader Qaddafi handed by Libyan envoy in Syria Hmayed Jalloud. The Libyan leader proposed an Arab summit to discuss the fate of the Arab world on the verge of the year 2000. Hrawi also received a message from king Hassan of Morocco. Morocco's ambassador who handed the message said it dealt with Jerusalem case. Former MP August Bakhous said he came to see the president in the company of his colleague MP Ghazi Zayter to ask the special pardon from the president for a prisoner who is suffering cancer and would die anytime. He said he explained the miserable intolerable conditions in the Lebanese prisons, and "since there is no pardon law in the near future, the president could make such special pardons in accordance to his constitutional prerogatives". Bakhous said one prison cell that can house 25 are now housing 60 and its a tragic view of the prison in Lebanon.

Car Imports-Custom Duty- A Leak and Beneficent

-House speaker Nabih Berri yesterday at a Parliament committee joint meeting he chaired for a while produced a list of 653 cars imported 24 hours before the cabinet decision to rise custom duties. The MPs described the disclosure as a scandal. State minister for finance Fouad Seniora claimed that the number is natural at the beginning of every month. Mr. Berri reported that the entry of the cars took place on June 10. He asked the public prosecutor to investigate the case namely who leaked the news about the cabinet decision. The parliament committee will meet again tomorrow to discuss on one hand the legality of the entry of these cars, and the impacts of rising the custom duties. Among the list of Mr. Berri companies including Bassoul and Houneine, Saad and Trad, Aviatico. Former prime minister and Beirut MP Selim Hoss addressed a question to the government demanding to clear how many cars entered to Lebanon during the first ten days of the month, comparative figures of 1996, and the result of the government investigation about whether the cabinet decision was leaked to certain individuals. The joint committee will discuss too the ban on imported goods namely agriculture. Minister Seniora was quoted saying at the meeting that the agriculture products' ban is a sort of "gambling" and we know nothing about where the ban will take us.

Sport City's Naming

-Kesrouan MP Rshayd el Khazen quoted prime minister Hariri saying Camille Chamoun naming of the sport city will be maintained and not change, and the same will be for the stadium named Pierre Gemayel. El Khazen said Hariri told him changing the name was not in consideration and it was an issue that was raised by some opportunists who tried to exploit the issue. El Khazen said Mr Hariri told him he was offered to buy sometime ago Chamoun's palace at Saadiyat and the offer had been presented by Chamoun's two sons who were passing a financial crisis. Hariri also quoted saying he did not bargain any price at that time and it was a service to the two sons. Hariri's visit to Damascus put on hold the argument over naming the sport city which has split politicians along sectyarian lines. Hariri has proposed earlier to change the name to Beirut sport city, with a commemorative stone that states it was built in 1957 while Chamoun was president, and rebuilt in 1997 during president Hrawi's term. President of the Kataeb party George Saadeh wished that what have been announced over unchanging the name is correct. Saadeh said the continued unfair policy is still chasing the leaders down to their graves.

News In Brief

-Gen. Michel Aoun apologized to respond to the invitation extended to him by the US congress foreign relation committee's chairman because of the US administration's delay to issue an entry visa to him. It was learned that the visit will take place at a later time, Gen. Aoun circles in Paris said.

-Opposition leaders circles in Paris warned of the demographic change in east Sidon and coastal Chuf, especially the report on large scale sale of Damour land. The circles made link between "terrorizing Jezzine people and the selling Damour land".

-Patriarch Sfair discussed with his visitors the situation in Jezzine and by elections in Byblos.

-Lebanon's cabinet meeting tomorrow under prime minister Hariri at Sanayeh government house will discuss 26 topic on agenda. Main topics include printing passports and stamps, regulating employment of vocational and technical schools' teachers, regulating the interior decorator's profession.

-Government's source said yesterday the cabinet licensing of the London based MBC to broadcast from Lebanon was a violation of the law, despite the cabinet's claim that the licensing was an administrative error. MBC is a satellite station, and licensing was in accordance to audio-visual law. Reports in Beirut said prime minister Hariri granted the license upon a request from the MBC Saudi general manager Ali-Al Hadathi. MBC is owned by the brother of the wife of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

-The 8.5 Km-long Damour-Jieh stretch of the southern coastal highway costing $19mn with six-lanes was yesterday inaugurated by Hariri. He said this is a boost to tourism,industry, agriculture, development of the south, and a help to Beirut housing problem. Hariri said despite the popular belief the road and highway are a priority and will proceed. He admitted that his government has yet to obtain enough funds for the rehabilitation of the country's roads network. The Saudi ambassador was one of the attendants of inauguration. Lebanese official responsible of the major projects Mohammed Fawaz said the highway is equipped with security equipment and traffic signs according to European standards, and it was financed by a soft loan from Saudi Arabia Development Fund. Fawaz said the stretch is a solution of a 30 year old problem of traffic congestion between Beirut and south, especially on the weekends. The Saudi Fund deputy president said the road is one of 11 development projects on which the fund has spent $129.3mn. Fiftenn other projects, costing $100mn, are financed by the government of Saudi Arabia

-Saudi Arabian prince Alwaleed, who recently announced he will be investing in the Four Season hotel in downtown Beirut, will own 49 per cent of the Planet Hollywood, which is going to open next year at verdun street in Beirut. Lebanese partner in the venture Khalid Hammoud said the pop icon Mickel Jackson will attend the opening in 1998. Prince Alwaleed declared yesterday he is pleased to participate in the company’s first operation in the Arab world. Alwaleed and Planet Hollywood signed a pact in April to develop 34 restaurants in Europe and the M.E. He is nephew of King Fahd.

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili said yesterday Bekaa MPs statement is not a substitute to hunger and that MPs meet and drink cup of tea is insufficient to alleviate poverty in the Bekaa region. He renewed the call to participate in the 4th July move.

-Lebanon's national news agency director Rafic Chlala who is participating in the 6th conference of the Mediterranean news agencies league representing Lebanon proposed that news on the Mediterranean countries be exchanged via the internet. Chlala assured the future of the media work lies in the internet which would form the basic channel of exchange. He observed that some Arab countries and perhaps some Mediterranean countries did not yet reach the stage of dealing with the internet service.

Sports Round Up

-Kuwait said yesterday its 227 member delegation to the Arab games in Beirut will boycott all events featuring Iraqi athletes. The Kuwaiti athletes will march in the opening ceremony holding pictures of their compatriots reported missing during the Gulf war. The Lebanese interior ministry said earlier it will impose a strict ban during the games on political demonstrations without prior approval. The boycott if decided would include all events. A tentative schedule of the games has Kuwait participating in 16 game, and Iraq in 18 out of the 21. Sheikh Ahmad said "We will not accept to meet them as long we have one prisoner in Iraq". Sheikh Ahmad, who's father was shot and killed by the Iraqis as he arrived to the royal palace on Aug 2.1990, the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, said Lebanon had promised Kuwait that Iraq will not participate in the games. Organizers of the Arab game said Iraq was invited and it will send a delegation. Some 2,000 athletes from 20 countries are expected to compete in the eighth Arab games. The events will be held in soccer, swimming, tennis, basketball, wrestling, and gymnastics.

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