-Lebanon's parliament yesterday at a general session endorsed a draft bill extending term in office of the over 30 year old municipalities until a date not far than spring 1999. The parliament doubled the one year extension of term that was decided April this year by the cabinet. The government and parliament seen in harmony over the issue. President Elias Hrawi who threatened in past to block any such attempt remained silent. The draft bill to extend term was proposed by MP Issam fares (close to Hrawi), Talal Merebi (close to Hariri), and Ali Khalil (close to Berri). "The extension of the municipalities term was seen as signal on the extension of the president's term once again, and Hrawi-Hariri are two constant pillars of the system as Damascus does not want a change", A leading daily analyst said. Only 20 MP opposed the bill including MP Boutros Harb who said he will appeal to the constitutional council. Harb said the municipal elections will not be held during this parliament's term and people will be deprived of such election. He said the bill deprived people of the right granted by the national conciliation document, and it is not fair to pass a law that deprives people of their right placing it only in the hand of the government, which decide by itself when the people can vote. Harb said the bill was in contrast with the development process, and furthermore, the people is the source of local authority. The government and majority MPs yielded to the de facto, said another daily. Both the government and parliament did not use the old tactic of throwing the ball into each other corner, this time they were both agreed and both assertive.
House speaker Nabih Berri said at the parliament general session "With or without development, municipal and mayoral elections should take place "but" the bills on municipalities election law, the general election law, and administrative division are all one body and need to be discussed on nation's level". Leading article said today justification of the bill were not persuasive especially as it was endorsed by the mother institution parliament entrusted on democracy and renovation of the country's political life. The backgrounds of the move were
1.The parliament awarded itself by keeping the danger of young generation far away until end of its term.
2. The extension signaled "big officials" are damaged of the municipal election, which contrary to the general election's steam roller, cannot be controlled and packed and would strip most of the leaders of their claim of popularity
3.What has mostly "encouraged" both the government and parliament to extend the term that way was that one million Lebanese proceeded in a month time to obtain electoral cards, and perhaps the number could have increased more if the election was held on time, something proved that this election would have made root change in the country. The parliament has endorsed eight other draft bills and one proposal. Today it will discuss 13 draft bill.
-President Elias Hrawi this evening said he is ready to call for municipal elections after study and completion of laws related to the move. He said nothing compels the extension until 1999.
-Lebanon prime minister Rafic Hariri at a weekly session at Baabda palace yesterday proposed a giant social spending plan increasing the initial number of $100mn to up $1bn. The plan was not finally approved yet because of the opposition to the plan by four ministers, including Walid Jumblat who walked out, foreign minister Fares Boueiz, Tourism minister Nicolas Fattouche, oil minister Shahe Barsoumian, and social affairs minister Ayub Hmayed. Information minister Bassem Sabbaa after the session announced that the plan needed further discussion and detailed study, which would come in the form of meetings of the concerned ministers under premier Hariri. He said Mr. Hariri stressed the need to improve effectiveness of the government resource collection to give an additional boost to the treasury. Final approval of the plan will come when parliament authorizes the necessary funding in the form of 30 year foreign currency treasury bills. Minister Jumblat reserved the putting funds on hold until parliamentary approval is obtained, something he said will take weeks, if not months. Tourism minister Nicolas Fattouche told reporters "God help us, thirty years of taxes".
The breakdown of Hariri's proposal :
-$400mn to all rural area's development instead of the earlier $100mn allocated to Baalbek-Hermel and Akkar.
-$100mn for public schools.
-$100mn for vocational and technical education.
-$50mn for the council of south to compensate people damaged of Israeli attacks.
-$200mn to private hospitals to pay's accumulated public debt.
-$150mn for the displaced.
-The cabinet session was marred at the beginning with tension when foreign minister Fares Boueiz noted that invitations to the Arab Games's opening ceremony had deliberately excluded mentioning the original name of the city. He accused Hariri of pushing ahead to delete Camille Chamoun's name. Boueiz said he and six other ministers would boycott the ceremony unless the error was rectified. President Hrawi intervened to say a private meeting after the session will discuss the issue. At the private meeting held later, Hariri agreed that in his opening speech on Saturday, he would refer to the Camille Chamoun Sport City.
-The cabinet appointed former Beirut public prosecutor Fawzi abu Mrad and law professor at St. Joseph university Salim Jraisati the government's representatives at the ten man Constitutional Council. Samir Qadi, Druze, was appointed army chief of staff and promoted to the rank brigadier-general replacing Brig Gen Riad Takieddine, who retired last month. The cabinet did not appoint new gendarmerie commander to replace retired Theodore Mekari. Munir Hunein will replace Philip Khairallah as head of the higher judicial council.
-Other cabinet decisions included the creation of a social security fund for private schools teachers and faculty, irrigation plans and sewer systems, a request by the education ministry to evict squatters from some public schools, and issues related to a conference on refugees, insects damage to woodlands, and efforts to limit damages of series of fires that were broken last week.
-Iraq's national Olympic committee yesterday said it will send Iraqi athletes to participate in the eighth Arab Games as of this weekend, even though they have not been given Lebanese visas. The athletes will leave shortly after midnight to Beirut and they were assured they'll be allowed to cross the border into Syria. It is not clear yet if they will be allowed to enter Lebanon. Lebanon's foreign minister fares Boueiz had yet to receive official stands of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait over the Iraqi participation. Boueiz is said to be in favor of dissociating politics from sport. News from Baghdad did not specify what sports they will participate in neither their number.
- Source in the Lebanese foreign ministry said diplomatic contacts with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are underway aimed to ensure participation of Iraqi athletes even symbolic. A Lebanese source close to the organizing committee said the Iraqis received no entry visas yet and they won't obtain it. Iraq said taking such unfair decision against an Arab country is not representing the will of Arab people. It noticed that even the US which led the Gulf war in 1991 against Iraq did not prevent the Iraqi athletes to participate in the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996.
-The Israeli backed SLA militia yesterday fired two artillery shells at the vicinity of Kfarfalous crossing signaling first reaction against the Lebanese cabinet decision to reopen the 12 year-old crossing. The firing came after Lebanese army engineers cleared the Ain el Mir-Kfarfalous road from land mines, a bulldozer started to remove fortifications and barricades, and army units brought in supplies and equipment to ensure their stationing, before reopening the crossing today or tomorrow. The army unit's three day work dismantled tens of land mines and unexploded bodies. Military sources said the reopening will be announced on time. Lebanese army communiqué stated the firing by SLA saying it was an attempt to obstruct the reopening, It said the army force continued its work to clear land mines.
-Israeli military radio said yesterday said several artillery shells and one rocket struck north Israel Tuesday overnight but inflicted no casualties or damages. The radio said it were fired from south Lebanon and fell near Israeli army positions along the border with Lebanon. It said this is the third firing in one week. The radio said this is a new tactic practiced by Hizbullah and aimed at provoking Israel.
-News this evening said one Israeli soldier was wounded in an operation carried by the Islamic resistance in the western sector of the security zone overnight yesterday. The SLA fired more shells today at the Kfarfalous crossing for the second time and in an attempt to undermine reopening of the crossing. The reopening is subjected to Israeli mood.
-Patriarch Sfair received the new executive board of the Maronite League headed by former MP Pierre Helou. Patriarch Sfair extended his congratulations to the new board and wished the municipal elections be held in Lebanon. Helou said the league's work will all lies under the guidance of the apostolic exhortation. He said he demands more than any time that Christians to join in the political life. He said the concern over the league has been expressed at the election on Sunday with 90 per cent of its members participated in the election. Responding a question on Christian opposition leaders abroad and a new pardon law said he has no objection to meet anyone and a new pardon law needs to be discussed.
-Displaced minister Walid Jumblat said Chuf MP Wadeeh Akl has expressed, in his speech at the parliament debate session, the views of the national Struggle Bloc. He said Akl speech was of great logic and quiet. Jumblat said Akl was expressing his personal view as the head of the bloc.
-The displaced ministry wished that the ministry of municipalities and rural areas to consider the rural nature in the displaced region, and to place as priority the development of the displaced rural area's productive sector, out of the $60mn agreement that will be concluded and allocated to rural development.
-The Gathering for the Republic led by Albert Mukheiber yesterday said that the government does not enjoy the people's trust but enjoys the Syrian protection, and opposition attempts are futile for that reason. The gathering frankly said the continuation of the present situation in Lebanon will harm Syrian image among the Lebanese.
-Malaysian prime minister in a cable to Hariri said the bilateral relation will be marking shortly a remarkable progress and he will urge his country's private sector to contribute to enhance bilateral economical cooperation.
-Arab League secretary general Issmat abdel Maguid is due to arrive this evening to Beirut. He is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Arab games and hold talks with senior officials. He told Lebanese journalists he is happy to visit Lebanon and "seeing is different from hearing" about Lebanon. He said an Arab summit is not feasible at present and there is nothing called resolving economical problems before political one.
-Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani met in Cairo Pope of the Copts Anba Schenuda and Egyptian Mufti also the Arab League secretary general.
-Massive rallies were held in Baalbek and Tripoli in solidarity with the missing and hostages held in Israeli jails. The International Amnesty organization in a new report titled "The forgotten hostages in Israel" said it is not understandable how a state can continue to detain people out of any legal framework. The report said most of those prisoners know nothing about their secret detention for years, as some were detained since 12 year without any charge of trial. It said at a first glimpse, one may think they were detained by a terrorist group, but in fact these prisoners are nothing else than the forgotten hostages held by the state of Israel.
-Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said the Israeli enemy is not thinking to drop down the April's understanding because circumstances in Israel, US, Europe, and Arab circumstances do not permit that.
-Nationalist and Islamic parties and groups in south Lebanon after a meeting in Sidon yesterday said the Israeli aggressions on civilians are a sign of deficiency to face the resistance.
-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili is touring today Hey Selloum and Amrousieh in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Tehran radio interviewed Tufeili over the hunger revolution.
-UN UNRWA agency's appeal today from Geneva called the world society to urgently extend $11mn to relief 355,000 Palestinian living in 12 camps in Lebanon. Director general of UNRWA said 40 per cent of the Palestinian population are jobless and the health, social and living conditions are very delicate.
-Closure of the Bourj Hammoud waste dump on 20th July is on hot boiler. Interior minister Michel Murr instructed the internal security forces to enforce the decision and prevent vehicles to enter the dump later to the date. In protest to the government stalemate policy on the dump, Metn and Armenian Mps called for a strike at Dora square at noon. Environment minister Akram Shehayeb joined the strike. Shops at Bourj Hammoud and Achrafieh closed for an hour in solidarity with the move. The dump is now 160,000 m2 with 60 metre high and received a daily 12,000 tones of house waste, additional to thousands of tones of debris from downtown Beirut construction area.
-The Arab Games organizing committee decided to cancel four sports including kick boxing for men and women, cycling for women, Golf for women, and yachting. The reason is the few teams that can participate in. Delegations from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco, already arrived while the Jordanian delegation is expected to arrive by land.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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