News from Beirut June 9  1997 ...Search

Lebanon-UN, US Threat and UN Fine

Lebanon's delegation to the UN is said to have received a US threat to obstruct the routine extension of the UNIFIL term next month unless a UN budget and administration committee draft resolution fining Israel $1.7mn is freezed. The fine is for compensating damages of the Israeli bombing of the UNIFIL Fiji barrack in Qana last year where some 105 Lebanese martyred. The UN general assembly is to convene Friday to vote on the draft resolution which is submitted by Tanzania and China on behalf of the group 77 which now up to 132. 107 committee members voted in favour of the draft resolution, with only 2 against including USA and Israel, and three abstain including Japan, Russia and Ukraine. Lebanon diplomacy is exploring backgrounds of the US stand, which in case it is serious, it is pushing the situation in south Lebanon to a boiling point and consequently posing the entire situation in the region to probable blow up. However, the Lebanese diplomatic circles see the threat as diplomatic pressure rather than a practical step or perhaps a political maneuver. Lebanon's foreign minister instructed the Lebanese mission in the UN to go ahead with the draft resolution. He will also inquire the US ambassador in Lebanon the motive and background of the stand, also he will convey to him the dismay of Lebanese officials over this dramatic development and their fear of Israeli dimensions behind the stand. Israel's delegation to the UN has also threaten that the Lebanese "are shooting themselves" persisting on adopting the draft resolution. He said such move will weaken the UN peacekeeping force. Washington is exercising the same approach of last year when it blamed constantly the resistance in south Lebanon and opposed the UN intervention. The UN peacekeepers in south numbers 4,500 with additional 450 civilians. The UN S.G. has reduced the annual budget of the force, in framework of reducing all UN expenditures, and proposed a yearly budget of $122mn starting as of July, instead of this year budget of $126mn.

GLC- Release

Elias Abu Rizk said he will go ahead maintaining same stands as before and won't retreat. He also said he could have averted his detention if he retreated his stands on the GLC elections and other issues but he didn't and he won't. Abu Rizk, who was released Saturday, said the coming phase is the start of work as there are challenges ahead and a marathonic phase of  hard work in defending rights of the labours and employees. He said "whatever they do they can't overshadow the people's feeling of the extremely hard crisis that threatens their living. He said the complaint of his rival Ghoneim Zoghbi was the reason for detention, and they could have averted the arrest and the consequent row, and "if I could go to Copenhagen conference I would have been one of hundreds, but since the conferees knew of the my arrest they place it an item on their agenda". Abu Rizk faction's secretary general Yasser Neemeh said their faction's stand is same as before, that is no discussion on any topic except on the basis of 28 union that form the GLC, as to the five other unions the problem could be resolved only through the new structure of the labour movement.

Lebanon-World Bank

World Bank chairman James Woolfenson announced, during his first ever visit to Beirut, the extension of $1bn loan to Lebanon for the coming four years, additional to $600mn from the IFC institute in the form of guarantees for the private sector. News reports here said its a new commitment toward Lebanon. The chairman said the world bank is backing Lebanon not only as a client and a contributor but because "we trust the government and believe what it is doing". He called for working on social development which the bank now is committed to it. He said Syria wish to resume relations with some of the world loan donners after it was severed due to payment failures.

Government-Extra Session

Prime minister Rafic Hariri arrived Sunday from a short visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah. Lebanon's government under president Hrawi is to hold an extra session Tuesday. Hariri visit to north Lebanon was postponed until a later date.

Lebanon-Iran, New President and Normalization

French intellectual said in a seminar held in Beirut that Iran's normalization of relation with the west has started sometime ago, and its not linked to a person, but to strategic invariables. He envisioned that the only development after electing new president Mohammed Khatami could be in culture. He said president Khatami is to find himself obliged to satisfy many pressure groups. He said the president's position is not easy as the state guide Khamini is not supporting him, and he does not enjoy support of the parliament.

-Iran's President Mohammad Khatami received in Teheran a Lebanese delegation that have participated in the 8th commemoration of Imam Khumeini. At a cultural session, he called the intellectuals to take the initiative from the politicians. Khatami called for a cultural policy and not a political culture.

Christian Maronite Bishop's Assembly

Christian Maronite Bishop's week long Assembly which ended June 7 discussed church affairs, elected three new bishops for Tripoli, Aleppo and a deputy patriarch, and reviewed social policies of the church. Names of the new bishops are withheld until the Vatican endorses the nomination according to the custom. The Maronite assembly wished adoption of measures that ensure democracy, sharing, and human rights. The assembly demanded a housing policy, and a review of salaries and wages and the naturalization decree. Patriarch Sfair after Sunday sermon raised the question whether the state in Lebanon guarantees rights of groups and individuals, and stand on equal distance from all the parties. He said he is still waiting response to that question but in deeds not words. He reminded of the apostolic guidance reference to the state of law as it is wished for Lebanon, especially after the spate of arrests of syndical labor leaders and its echoes in the international labor organisations headquarters.

Germany- Congo, More Blows to Lebanon Emigration

In Freetown some 100 Lebanese woman and child were reported to have left to Conakry on board of a chopper. The Lebanese community in Conakry offered the chartered chopper. Some 1,500 more Lebanese in Freetown rushed to get on board of a ship sailing to Conakry too. Mixed Lebanese and nationals from west Africa rushed to the ship that was hired by the community in Conakry and Guinean officials.

-Exodus of  hundreds of Lebanese from the war torn Sierraleone has not finished yet. Now more additional blows, including Germany decision to expel and deport out 20,000 Lebanese, and the events in Congo Brazaville, are bad luck and fate for the Lebanese emigrants. The Lebanese emigrants ministry said the situation in Congo is tensed and unstable. The ministry stated that no information is yet available on the Lebanese community situation, because of difficult communications. Some 300 Lebanese used to live in Brazaville.

News In Brief

-Israeli warplanes flew over south Lebanon and deep over Iqlim Kharoub and Beirut amid series of attacks by the Islamic resistance against Israeli and SLA posts. SLA outposts at Sojad, Kawkaba, Ahmadieh in west Bekaa, and Ghozlan were attacked by the Islamic resistance, drawing Israeli and SLA retaliatory artillery shelling.

-The 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee held meeting Sunday to examine two complaints submitted by Lebanon and Israel.

-North Lebanon marked the 10th commemoration of late prime minister Rachid Karami. Representative of Lebanon's senior officials, and Syrian Baath party official Abdallah el Ahmar, representing president Assad, attended the ceremony. Omar Karami assailed the government policies and said the gap is wide between the people and the government.

-Transport minister Omar Miskawi said the "revolt of the starved" is in fact starving to power and not aimed to resolve the issue of starvation. He said such talking on starvation is irresponsible and hides purposes which should be revealed and rejected. Miskawi said such slogans serve the chaos which pave grounds in the region for the Israelis, and that's what happened in 1975.

-Polling measures prior to 29th June by elections by the interior ministry are accomplished. While Hizbullah stand on the by elections in Bekaa is not taken yet, Elie Skaff announced he supports candidate Robert Ghanem. Nazem Khoury announced he is running for the seat of Byblos. In north Lebanon, the NSSP would not run the by elections and leave it up to its members to vote or be candidates. Other key groups and parties in north Lebanon are maintaining a policy of wait and see.

-The new Dutch ambassador in Lebanon, first to reopen the embassy Oct . last year after 12 year closure, said Holland will contribute to enhance the economical situation in Lebanon. The ambassador said he has participated in the opening of Dutch ABN bank in Beirut and the Dutch airlines resumed its flights to Lebanon.

-Election of the Maronite League executive board is still preoccupying some Maronite circles. A conciliatory committee held talks with members of the general assembly and met Patriarch Sfair to brief  him on their efforts. Member of the committee former MP Chafic Badre said the committee has no purpose other than maintaining the unity of the league and regenerating its role.

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili, is reported to have met the Iranian ambassador in Syria and is due to visit Tehran shortly to discuss with the officials there dominant topics. Tufeili continued his moves in prior to the "civil rebellion" he had set on July 4. He considered remarks that were said about him a proof of the weakness of the state. Tufeili said the ruler should review his stand and policy or otherwise step down. He said the government turned Lebanon into a large jail and the only option for the people is to destroy their chain.

-Beirut criminal court under judge Suheil Abdel Samad is to start today trial of Japanese Red Army Five for forging travel documents and residence permits. Lebanese woman Omaya Abboud is to be put on trial too for illegal practice of medicine. Some 136 volunteering lawyers are defending the men, especially Kozo Okamoto, who carried the Lod airport operation in Israel in 1972. The lawyers said their volunteer is to return his favour. They demanded grant him political asylum and the largest possible excuse.

 - Lebanon's Internal Security Forces celebrates today 136th anniversary. General director of the ISF Brig. Rafic el Hassan said "without the ISF security Lebanon would not been restored".

- Lebanese custom officers and smugglers of foreign cigarettes clashed for around 5 hours Friday on the western slopes of Hermon mountain. The smugglers convoy of mules were heading to Ain Atta north and out of the security zone occupied by Israel. 10 mules killed during the clash, two smugglers arrested, and 75 cigarette boxes were confiscated.

-Tens of Lebanese and French people staged a symbolic gathering at Trocadero square in Paris demanding release of Lebanese detainees in Syria. The gathering was organised by the organisation SOLIDA. Two officials representing the group handed president Chirac a memo which explained their situation. The protesters signed memorandums asking Syrian president to immediately release them because the arrest is illegitimate. They also called the papal nuncio in Lebanon to release his information on the case. They said he has announced, before his pontiff's visit, that some Lebanese detainees would be released from foreign jails. They also renewed their call to president Hrawi to release names of 210 detainees in Syrian jails and the location of the jails.

-Lebanese youths organisations sent memos to Arab organisations stating the danger of the Israeli -Turkish alliance and its impacts on the people of the region.

Telephones Tapping

-Lebanon's parliament committees are due to hold special unpublic meeting Wednesday under the house speaker Nabih Berri to discuss telephones tapping including the cellulars and ordinary telephones.

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