News from Beirut June 26  1997 ...Search

Reopening Kfarfalous Crossing

-The cabinet decision yesterday to instruct the army to reopen the crossing access between Jezzine and Sidon at Kfarfalous was the last required formal measure. Despite the relief and comfort of Jezzine's people the crossing is not yet opened. Soldiers manning the final roadblock bordering the occupation zone yesterday admitted they had not been informed of the decision. The earth embankment that cuts off the road at Ein el Mir that leads to the zone and was supposed to be bulldozed yesterday remained in place manned by a handful of troops apparently confused of the fuss. The Lebanese army command is working on measures including removal of the sand barricades, study the units stationing plan, and organize travel through the checkpoints, something that will take several days, news reports said today. The measures will ease the travel of residents of Jezzine and its vicinity. Residents are not required anymore to carry passes when traveling between the town and other areas. Non residents will be allowed to obtain permanent passes from the last army checkpoint before the town for regular visitors and short-term passes for temporary visitors. Sidon's MP Mustafa Saad said the announcement was nothing new and that the decision on whether the road reopens or not lies with the Israelis and the SLA. Saad said "Though we welcome the opening, we do not think this will actually happen". House speaker Nabih Berri revealed yesterday that local, regional, and international contacts are underway with the int. cease-fire committee group to ease success of the move. Mr. Berri told visiting MPs yesterday that all the illusions over "Jezzine First" proposal have been dropped and there is no link between the proposal and reopening the Kfarfalous crossing. He said the US embassy in Beirut is making most of the contacts. Government sources said the move is carefully worked out from political and security aspects so that it takes place smoothly with maintaining the state image and credibility.

Lebanon-USA, Int. Relation Committee Debate On Lebanon

-The US house of representatives and the state department debated yesterday the US policy toward Lebanon. David Welch, acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, defended his administration's policy toward Lebanon. He said the US "regards Lebanon an independent state with an agreement on the mutual relation with Syria that is up to them to modify if they wish to". He said Lebanon remains a safe haven for armed, organized groups with a demonstrated history of terrorist attacks against Americans". Welch declined to comment in an open session any current specific threats against Americans. He emphasized that his statement should not be regarded as a final recommendation for secretary of state Mrs. Albright in her semi-annual review of the travel ban next month to extend the ten year old ban. Mr. Welch affirmed that an improvement of the security situation was observed since 1991 when the last American kidnapped, and that no terrorist attack against Americans or westerners in Lebanon took place since six years. He said the secretary of state Albright will review the ban and take a decision before the renewal date on 31st July. Kenneth McKune, deputy coordinator for counter terrorism at the state department, conceded that there was no longer "imminent peril" to Americans in Lebanon, referring to the original justification of the restrictions. McKune yet said that "Hizbullah retains a terrorist capability, and it would be irresponsible for the US to ignore that.” He acknowledged that as many as 30,000 Americans may be living in Lebanon currently, many of them Lebanese Americans with dual nationality who need not a US passport to enter the country.

-The Lebanese opposition representatives focused on the point that Lebanon is an occupied country. Former president Amin Gemayel told the committee that "In the south, the Israelis continue their zone off occupation". Gemayel added that "Most of the rest of the country is occupied by the Syrians and the central government is controlled by them". Gemayel added that "The international community is standing idly by and watching as Lebanese sovereignty, democratic values and the basic human rights are eroded. He said "They fool themselves that Lebanon is better under a Syrian control". Gemayel also said "Without Syria the Lebanese could have reached a solution". The committee chairman Benjamin Gilman, said Lebanon "had effectively become a Syrian satellite state. While Syria and Israel both have troops in Lebanon, Israel exercises no control over the government and is on record as intending to withdraw from Lebanese soil in return for security arrangements". David Welch noted that the Lebanese government had said that it needed Syrian forces "for internal stability". He disagreed with the suggestion that the Syrian intelligence officials control Lebanon, calling the statement "too sweeping and Lebanon is now free of civil war, which is a substantial achievement". Welch said "despite significant flaws, the recent parliamentary polls in Lebanon were a step forward for the country". The Lebanese American Organization's Council called the US administration to impose economical sanctions on Syria same of that on Libya and Iran, until Syria halts its destructive policy and negative role in Lebanon.

-Both Democrats and Republicans on the international relations committee said to have told the state department officials that Lebanon was less dangerous than the US capital. Democrat representative Pat Danner said if the travel ban have been imposed because of the potential danger to Americans there, the government of the US would best advise her Midwest Missouri constituents "that they would be at risk in Washington, based on facts, such as robberies". Most of the US legislators, several of them have recently toured Lebanon, said the travel restrictions are no more necessary. They said these restrictions were detrimental to US businesses eager to have some of the lucrative work in reconstructing Lebanon, but which are lost out to the Europeans and Japanese contractors. Ray LaHood, a Republican representative with Lebanese ancestry, said innocent civilians were recently killed at a market in Israel, a country where there are no travel restrictions.

-Among the prominent absentees was Gen. Michel Aoun, who was not granted an entry visa on time. A US congress official said Aoun's visa application was incomplete, for that, it was difficult to issue him a visa. He said Aoun was asked to provide further information but it was too late to come to the US on time. The official, name withheld, said the Americans told Aoun loyalists that if they press on his attendance of the committee meeting he won't obtain the visa.

-Political analysts in Beirut said the Lebanese government ignores the call of Lebanon's opposition to Washington. It described the int. relation committee's meeting not important, and denied it had intervened with the US administration to not issue Gen. Aoun an entry visa. The government in Beirut is convinced that Washington is trying to exert indirect pressure on Damascus through the committee hearing on Lebanon.

News In Brief

-Lebanese media today focused on the visit of Saudi crown prince. Hariri said its historic and will pave way for Arab investors, and it is another sign of rebirth as the large scale delegation is a biggest testimony of trust since Taif. The high ranking Saudi official's arrival to the Lebanese border point with Syria was delayed for over an hour. A special launch at Baabda has been canceled as a result.

-Prime minister Hariri is to leave to Morocco Tuesday in a three day official visit. He was informed by the Egyptian ambassador that Egypt's prime minister will visit Lebanon. The visit is the first by an Egyptian premier to Lebanon.

-The Islamic resistance yesterday said its fighters attacked the SLA outpost of Sojod making direct hits. The resistance said it has attacked Israeli land troop unit at Jabal Rafe. Israeli warplanes staged mock raids over Nabatieh and Iqlim Toffah drawing air defenses fire from the resistance and Lebanese army posts.

-MP Sami Khatib, one of the two man parliamentary mini committee to follow up telephone tapping, said the "legitimate" tapping is halted until a certain method is being adopted. Khatib and the second member state prosecutor Adnan Addoum inquired yesterday the director general of the general security Rimon Ruphail about tapping. Khatib said the director did not give any further information more than the one he gave at parliament.

-The opposition group "Republic's gathering" under former MP Albert Mukheiber criticized interior minister Michel Murr's call for a strike to close the Bourj Hammoud dump. The group said the call is an indicator on government's deficiency, and recalled that the interior minister has the power to close the dump not the environment minister.

-MP Rshayd el Khazen after a visit to Bkerke yesterday affirmed that the prime minister assured him the sport city name will not be changed, the same affirmation was given by president Hrawi, and that the file should be out of circulation from now on.

-MP Zaher Khatib called for the removal of the Hariri government in a national social renaissance. Khatib said Hariri three governments had been insensitive to socio-economic problems, because they have been blinded by the reconstruction process. He said the public debt has reached as high as $16bn, more than 18 per cent of the GNP. He said the budget deficit is 60 per cent. Khatib's colleague MP Najah Wakim has earlier supported sheikh Subhi Tufeili, who is holding a "hunger revolution" on 4th July. The cabinet decision yesterday to earmark L.L150bn to rural development is said to have been taken to undercut growing support for Tufeili's revolution.

-The AUB university in Beirut yesterday announced the appointment of Abdul Hamid Hallab as special advisor to president David Dodge as from August 1.

-Jordanian prince Talal Mohammed inaugurated the new premises of the Lebanese embassy 5 story building in Abdoun in Amman at a reception with 700 guests. Lebanese and friends of Lebanon contributed the land located at the prestigious quarter Abdoun.

-Former Premier Omar Karami announced yesterday he supports candidates Fawzi Hobeich and Khaled Daher in the north Lebanon by election. Karami denied that he received Syrian request on that. The Kataeb party said it is up to Kataeb voters to decide who will choose in both Byblos and Akkar. The party urged voters to participate in the 29th June polling to enrich the democratic life. The defense ministry issued a reminder on prohibiting arms licenses in the constituent of North and Byblos.

-The Maronite League's polling: six candidates will run for the presidency, three for deputy president, and 44 for the membership. Deadline to apply ended June 25.

-Beirut lawyers bar's chairman Shakib Kortbawi in an extra meeting of the bar yesterday said Lebanon is living a crisis on all levels, starting with ethics, and the decision making, democratic practice, general freedoms, also the hard living conditions. He said ignoring the crisis will aggravate it .

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