News from Beirut June 27  1997 ...Search

Saudi Crown Prince Visit, Warm Welcome

-Saudi crown prince visit to Lebanon served as a message of moral, political and economical support to Lebanon, leading report said. The Saudi Heir's 100 car convoy drove to Masnaa border point from Damascus where he was received by Lebanon's prime minister Hariri, 11 ministers in his cabinet, and dozens of MPs. Crown prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz was flanked by 162 member entourage. Along the road from Masnaa to Baabda palace, a long line of official limousines and security jeeps stretched for miles. On the 40 Km journey, Hariri, who drove the leading car by himself had to stop six times with crowds of people pressing against his car to salute while others were slaughtering sheep and camels on the sides of the road. The convoy increased to 250 car after Lebanese reception party joined. The convoy drove slowly under floral arches and slogans hailing the kingdom and the royal guest. Women showered the road and cars with rice and rose petals. The horsemen wielding swords zigzagged between cars in traditional bedouin dress. Beirut has been bedecked with banners welcoming the guest, matching only that afforded to Pope Jean Paul 11 on his trip in May. At Baabda, he arrived almost two hours late caused by an unexplained delay in his departure from Damascus. After a private launch, Hariri escorted the guest to his palace at Qoraytem for a brief rest before returning to Baabda for an evening banquet.This is first such visit to Lebanon by a high ranking Saudi official since 1971 when late king Faisal bin Abdel Aziz visited the country. President Elias Hrawi and the Saudi guest exchanged the most senior medals at an evening banquet followed by a private half hour meeting between the two.

-Following the Tumultuous welcome yesterday, official talks will begin today. Observers noticed that some members of the Saudi delegation also some Lebanese ministers were absent during the evening banquet yesterday. It was learned that they held side meeting overnight to finalize draft agreements that will be signed today. Since 1993, the Saudi government and its development fund granted Lebanon a total of $100mn to the reconstruction project. The Saudi development bank provided easy term loans total $130mn, while the Saudi private investments amounted $1.5bn. Saudi imports from Lebanon in 1996 reached $139mn, compared to Lebanese imports of $112mn.

-Crown prince Abdullah said upon his arrival "We have shared Lebanon's pain and concerns over the years, and the bitter suffering of this steadfast nation is a source of pride to us all. We salute the steadfastness of our kin in the south. We declare that we are behind you all the way in your unwavering determination to regain your legitimate rights". He also said "There will be no power on earth able to create disputes between brothers or neighbors". Any reluctance, indifference, or attempts to derail peace efforts will lead to painful repercussions that will spare no one".

Israeli Overnight Air Raid

-Two Israeli helicopter gunships raided yesterday at 11.00 p.m. the vicinity of Ain Tasseh spring in Iqlim Toffah and fired five air to surface missiles drawing air defenses fire. News dispatch said one Hizbullah fighter was wounded while driving his military jeep in the area. The Islamic resistance said it attacked an Israeli unit and two SLA posts.

-Lebanese army logistic unit is expected to start checking land mines at Kfarfalous-Ain el Mir crossing in the coming hours in order to clear the road and its vicinity. The ground measures awaits green light from the army command which is discussing the reopening plan that was put by the the army's south command. Bulldozers are expected to remove the barricades and barriers next to clearing the area of land mines, and the following step is asphalting. Army units are expected to station at the Kfarfalous crossing to protect its security. Teams from the ministry of public works were dispatched yesterday to rehabilitate the road near the last army checkpoint bordering the security zone at Ain el Mir. The Israeli warplaned stepped up its flights over the area last night, dropping flames over Kfarfalous and the mountain ridge of Iqlim Toffah. News reporters in Bint Jbeil quoted the SLA command saying they did not yet receive any note on the reopening of the crossing.

News In Brief

-Residents in Hey Selloum in the southern suburbs of Beirut forced their way in to Amrousieh's incinerator and set it ablaze at a time environment minister Akram Shehayeb was speaking at an interview midnight on T.V. Other residents gathered at its main gate throwing stones at the Police and civil defense units which were dispatched to the area. The civil defense said the blaze was deliberate. Some reports said the fire brought under control after an hour. An army force was deployed early 1.00 a.m. this morning. The incinerator plant was a scene of protests last month by residents who claim it is a major health hazard. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

-Lebanon's skeptical businessmen said to have been impressed by the presentation of agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury on the food import ban. The minister, accepted to present his plan before a 30 businessman at the chamber of commerce in Beirut, explained reasons behind the move, and promised to exercise flexibility and desire cooperation with the private sector. Fakhoury said the list of banned imports distributed after the cabinet session earlier this month was a working paper not a final one. He promised to ease measures on processed foods and to move cut flowers and potted plants from the category of banned imports to those carrying customs duty.

-Former prime minister Selim Hoss, MP Ali Khalil, former MP Adnan Traboulsi, and the National Syrian Socialist party NSSP denounced the statement made by former president Amin Gemayel before the US house of representatives int. relation committee. Hoss denied yesterday allegations by Gemayel that Muslim leaders had unwillingly accepted constitutional reforms under pressure from Damascus.

-Lebanon cabinet's decision on rural development has been praised by many groups and figures. Their statement wished the plan to include all other rural areas and hoped that implementation will be imminent. Other groups demanded that the plan should be comprehensive and aims at balanced development all over Lebanon. Sheikh Subhi Tufeili said he hopes the decision is not a government attempt to ease the hunger revolution, because hunger of the people cannot be treated by a sum of money distributed on state favorites. Tufeili said "they are greatly mistaken if they think that our demand is a sum of money, as we are not beggars, and this is a style of the state low mentality". He raised the question the money to whom and where. Tufeili, asked if he will go on in his hunger revolution, said "definately yes and more vigorously, because we are aware they would misunderstand and think we have accepted and yielded to bribe". Politicians in Beirut appeared skeptical about Wednesday's cabinet decision to allocate L.L 150 bn, but said the decision is a first step in addressing the region's socioeconomic problems. They hoped the government will keep its promise though they doubt it will happen.

-MP Boutros Harb presented a question to the government asking what is the legal text it has adopted to impose censorship on the satellite news and political programs. Harb noticed that the government is distinguishing between the LBCI and the FUTURE T.V station. The Future station is owned by prime minister Hariri. LBCI resumed yesterday its satellite news bulletin after two days absence from the airwaves because of its dispute with the information ministry's censorship.

-Maronite League's election on July 6 was a main topic of discussion between Patriarch Sfair and his visitors. Contacts are underway to reach consensus while candidates are working on the formation of tickets to boost their campaign. Patriarch Sfair also gave main concern to the Jezzine issue and the reopening of the Kfarfalous crossing.

-In the 29th June's by election, four Maronites are racing in Byblos Notably Emile Nawfal and Nazem Khoury. Mr. Raymond Edde told his supporters that nothing had changed since the 1992 general election and boycott is the best option. Candidate Nazem Khoury during a tour in upper Byblos called for the return of leaders in exile "because everyone has his role in the political life". At north Lebanon, 23 out of the 26 MP shifted to support the ticket including the maronite candidate Fawzi Hobeich and Sunni candidate Khaled Daher. Paving roads in Byblos has now replaced electricity and water as a way to win voters in the run-up to Byblos by election. 350 tons of asphalt are reportedly being laid each day in the Qada reflecting an effort by prime minister Hariri to gain support to candidate Nazem Khoury.

- The spouse and four sons of Issam abu Jamra, a former member of Gen. Michel Aoun military government who is in Paris since seven years, returned back to Beirut yesterday to spend the summer holiday at her house in Baabda. Mrs. abu Jamra denied that the return has any political background. She demanded that the money she was holding on her departure from Beirut Oct 19. 1990, that was seized then, be returned to her because it is private money. She said she will not refuse any military escort because it is important but it is up to the officials to decide on that.

-The president of Egyptian Al Azhar university Dr Ahmad Omar Hashem signed coordination agreement in Beirut with two Islamic universities and a plan to sign a third one will take place today. He said the move aims to extend bridges between universities which work to enhance the Islamic education. The two first agreements were signed with dar el Fatwa and Makassed, and the third is expected with the Muslim Shiite Supreme Council's university.

-Public works minister Ali Harajli said work on the Aley-Sofar stretch of the Arab highway will start immediately after a bidding on Monday. He said his ministry is working now on an important link of the highway between Masnaa and the Syrian borders. Harajli said he supports the idea of finding a solution to Kahale, on the highway, that respects the environment. He said he would halt the plan if a logical solution was presented to prevent the highway from crossing through Kahale.

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