News from Beirut June 25  1997 ...Search

Cabinet Meeting Today- Wide Range Topics of Discussion

-Lebanon's cabinet meeting today under prime minister Hariri discussed wide range of topics out of the set agenda. Information minister Bassem Sabbaa announced this evening that the Saudi crown prince's visit was on top of the agenda.

-On Jezzine, Mr Hariri said Israel's unabated military escalation and political schemes aimed to siege Lebanon and Syria. He said the reopening of the Kfarfalous crossing was a basic step in framework of the steadfastness of Jezzine's people. He affirmed that the Lebanese army command was asked to take all measures to carry on the decision. The information minister said the zero hour for reopening the crossing is related to the army measures on the ground.

-On Bekaa, The prime minister emphasized on the development of rural areas in Baalbeck-Hermel and elsewhere in Lebanon which were suffering deprive for decades. Mr Hariri mentioned the visit of house speaker Nabih Berri to Bekaa on Sunday and the meeting of Bekaa Mps. The cabinet discussed programs aimed to implement and develop alternative cultivation and instructed speed up the implementation. The cabinet decided to allocate L.L150bn for these programs and to lay down a relevant timetable and a mechanism. The cabinet charged the CDR to carry on the programs. A ministerial committee under prime minister Hariri and ministers in charge of public services are to follow up the implementation. The cabinet too decided to speed up building a dam on the Orontes river which will help irrigate some 6,000 agriculture land in Qaa and Hermel. The cabinet took notice of the underway negotiation between the ministry of municipalities and the World Bank. The bank is to extend an annual $60mn loan allocated to develop rural areas.

-On the imports of used cars, including cars which were already unloaded at the seaport zone or being shipped before the government decision, the custom duty will be reduced from L.L5mn to L.L3mn. The duty will be unchanged on cars imported later to the government decision on June 4.

-On the MBC licensing, Mr Hariri clarified that the station did not ask a station's license and said all what was issued should be regarded null and void.

-On the sport city renaming, Mr Hariri assailed the negative and sectarian campaigns that were launched . He said these campaigns aimed at using the issue in a political investment that was harmful to Lebanon. He said the focus should be devoted to lend success to the Arab games next month. He hoped that the useless argument on the renaming should be halted. Mr Hariri said naming the sport city is premature and should be out of circulation now, since the rebuilding of the sport city need more more months to be accomplished. He said the focus now is to lend success to the sport games. The cabinet decided to charge the army to ensure security of the games, also decided to exempt all sport delegations members from the charge of entry.

-President Elias Hrawi, after weeks of silence, yesterday joined a chorus of Christian politicians opposing a plan to rename the sport city after the completion of its reconstruction. Reports said Hrawi sent a stern warning to premier Hariri that he would not attend the opening of the complex, scheduled for the first day of the Arab games on July 12, if the name be changed.

Saudi Crown Prince Visit

-Saudi crown prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz is due to arrive tomorrow at the Lebanese border point with Syria in first ever visit to Lebanon by a high ranking Saudi official since 1975 with accompanying 165 man delegation. He will be received at the border point by prime minister Rafic Hariri and other ministers, directly from there to Baabda palace where he will be hosted at a special launch by president Hrawi. The visit will continue until Saturday. Lebanon's three senior statesmen discussed the arrangements of the visit at a mourning meeting, including a 5 minute meeting together of the three troika members. Banners and national flags were hoisted in several quarters in Beirut and along the road to the presidential palace. The banners hailed Saudi Arabia sincere stand beside Lebanon's peace and reconstruction. Lebanon cabinet meeting today under Prime minister Hariri will discuss arrangement of the visit out of its agenda. Mr Hariri told the Saudi media that Lebanon is grateful to the kingdom's contributions to Lebanon. A release on Saudi funds to Lebanon was highlighted today. Another release said the balance of trade with the kingdom was steadily in favor of Lebanon and that the relation between the two countries was always strong.

Reopening Kfarfalous Crossing, Impacts

-The Lebanese government decision yesterday to reopen the Kfarfalous crossing east of Sidon which link Jezzine to Sidon for the first time since 1985 when Israel withdrew the area is a top story today. The reopening of the crossing, 12 Kms from the coast, 12 years of closure and 6 years since the Lebanese army had been stationed off, will now shorten the distance between Jezzine and Sidon, taking only 20 minutes instead of the one hour distance, across Bater crossing through the Chuf which was the only access point. Prime minister Hariri said the reopening came in response to demands from Jezzine's MPs and residents "Who have grown tired of the suffering they face when have to travel through Bater crossing to the liberated land". Mr Hariri said "However, Lebanon has done what it can, should Israel choose to close it from its side, it should be held responsible for the decision". The Lebanese government's sudden decision was a comfort and relax to Jezzine and east Sidon's residents, but the political significance is that it stripped Israel and the SLA from the pretext of keeping Jezzine as hostage, under its de facto situation as a security and , military, and political extension of the security zone. House speaker Nabih Berri said he contacted the army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud to discuss exempting Jezzine people from passes at the checkpoints.

-The decision was reportedly coordinated consulted with the Syrian official being announced after Hariri visit to Damascus. House speaker Nabih Berri shared the decision making and circulated it to MPs and concerned parties. Hariri circles pointed out to the human and political positive impacts of the decision. The Lebanese army sand barricade at the Ain el Mir village, the last one before Kfarfalous, is expected to be bulldozed aside today. The checkpoint had been erected more than a decade ago. Lebanese military sources said the crossing will be useable after land mines are cleared.

-However, the success of the move depends now on Israel's reaction and the measures which would be taken by the SLA. The SLA had lately evacuated its checkpoint at Kfarfalous but maintained patrolling and control of the area and the crossing. SLA immediate reaction to the move was not encouraging. SLA commander Antoine Lahd said " this crossing was opened a time ago but without response. We consider its reopening today under present circumstances a significance and we have other crossings that people can move through it". Lahd left the response hanged saying "Final decision will be taken after the decision formally informed then we shall discuss it from all aspects and dimensions". A delegation from Jezzine met yesterday with Israel's commander in south Lebanon Gen Amitai. He told the delegation, according to Israel's radio, that " The village was an indispensable part" of the occupied zone and that Israel will not let it go. Amitai said there is "common fate" between the people of north Israel and those of Jezzine. Israel's chief of staff Gen. Shahak said Israel to carry a unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon need a political decision on political level. He said he believes that consequences of such withdrawal will be more dangerous than keeping the Israeli army in south Lebanon.

Bekaa- The Hunger Revolution

-Bekaa MPs list of demands put on Sunday to develop the area is expected to be discussed at today's cabinet meeting. These demands were labeled urgent in view of the nearing 4th July date of the hunger revolution announced by Sheikh Subhi Tufeili. Bekaa MP minister Mahmoud abu Hamdan would raise the case emphasizing that it can't be anymore postponed and a solution should be laid down. He will propose that a ministerial committee with the Council for Development and Reconstruction CDR to proceed crystallizing practical steps that respond to the real situation in the region, and same to be done for Akkar area. A step in this regard is expected to be taken today. The Bekaa issue was also under discussion yesterday at a meeting between the head of the Muslim Shiite Supreme Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine and Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah with the head of Hizubullah MPs bloc Ibrahim Amin Sayed. The two sides agreed to the necessity to confront the social and living conditions in the country and treat it in cooperation with the state responsible authority.

-For the second time in 48 hours, Bekaa Mps met to discuss how to generate their earlier decision on Sunday and how to lobby their demands. Yesterday's meeting was held at the office of the deputy speaker Elie Firzli. The MPs said their confidence in Hariri government depends on the its response to their demands. Parliament plenary session on 7th July would be an occasion to ask a vote of confidence, as Firzli hinted to. A tit bit today said the continued deterioration of the social situation would by time justify the return to hashish cultivation.

News In Brief

-The British daily INDEPENDENT said most of the missiles and bombs used by Israel in last year's "Grapes of Wrath" blitz against Lebanon were in fact from the US army's depots. The daily's report written by Robert Fisk said one of the missiles, Hillfire, an air to surface missile, struck an ambulance in south Lebanon and killed two women and four children. The report said the US made missile type was allocated to the marines. The report quoted US officials saying that Israel has unrestricted freedom to buy whatever available in the US arms depots or looting it, because those in the Pentagon raise no question on how much the Israeli army need arms and ammunitions neither the way it will be used for. A US senior retired officer said "The Pentagon always agree to all Israel's demands whatever it is and without any question". The Independent said Washington received early June an Israeli demand to buy 30,000 artillery 155mm shell worth $30mn, recalled that Israel had fired 26,000 artillery shell during the three weeks "Grapes of Wrath" assault.

-The mini committee assigned by the parliament committee on telephone's tapping held a meeting yesterday with the Lebanese army intelligence Chief Brig. Michel Rahbani. Another meeting will held today by the mini committee, which include MP Sami Khatib and state prosecutor Adnan Addoum, with the director general of the general security Rimon Ruphail. MP Sami Khatib said Brig. Rahbani did not change his earlier declaration at the parliament that the army is not tapping telephones. Khatib said they did not confirm tapping the cellular telephones. State prosecutor was quoted assuring he did not permit any tapping of any telephone of any politician, religious cleric, or journalist.

-The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation-International abruptly suspended yesterday evening its satellite transmission of the evening news after the information ministry ignored a Shura Council's ruling ordering an end to the censoring of news and political programs. Instead of the evening news, the LBCI viewers were presented with a notice saying the government censorship had forced the cancellation of the bulletin. The silence was maintained for an hour before the LBCI resumed its nonpolitical programs. Government sources today if the LBCI agreed to be censored it will be permitted to transmit news and if not it will be banned. This evening for the second day the LBCI again suspended its satellite news bulletin. The LBCI said the suspension of the evening news bulletin was due to instructions from the Government censorship committee. The station, on local broadcasts showed several MPs and politicians opposing the censorship.

-NLP leader Douri Chamoun said yesterday after a visit to Bkerke "let it be known that Jezzine people will be evicted from the area if this the motive behind the shelling of the residential areas in the town"

-Maronite candidates to run for the chairmanship of the Maronite league are at a feverish competition including former MP Pierre Helou and former secretary general of the league lawyer Nimatallah abi Nasr. Observers did not exclude the possibility of reaching a last moment concessus.

-Head of the Japanese foreign ministry M.E. section, now presiding a conference of the Japanese ambassadors in the M.E. held in Beirut, said the M.E. peace is in danger and Israel should resume the peace talks.

-MPs of Metn and the Armenian community said yesterday they will stage an alarm strike on 9th July to close definitely the Bourj Hammoud dump.

-The displaced of the Chuf village Kfarnabrakh will be paid their reparation and rebuilding compensation on 27th June, the ministry for the displaced and the displaced fund announced.

-German ambassador in Lebanon said his government is in agreement with the government of Lebanon on the return of several thousands of the Lebanese to their country from Germany. He said some of them entered illegally to Germany. He said the return of the Lebanese will be on stages and in quiet not with large numbers as circulated and after court rulings.

-Egyptian ambassador said today Egypt's prime minister Kamal Janzouri is to visit Lebanon shortly.

-Italian ambassador said Italian president is planning to visit Lebanon.

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