News from Beirut July 11  1997 ...Search

Lebanon-Iraq, Sports and Politics

-Lebanon did not agree to grant Iraqi athletes entry visas two days before the opening ceremony Saturday threatening a fresh fragile openness between the two Arab countries. An Iraqi symbolic participation even was denied by Lebanon which aimed to avoid Kuwait and Saudi Arabia's anger. The case has been controversial for a week now and Lebanon's stand was hesitant and indecisive. The first announcement came from the secretary general Issmat abdel Maguid who yesterday arrived to Beirut. After a meeting with foreign minister Fares Boueiz he said some "difficulties" prevent the Iraqi athletes from participation. He said reasons are "The impacts of the Gulf war". Abdel Maguid declared that it is unfortunate " that we remain captives of the polarization that resulted from the Gulf war". Lebanon foreign ministry dealt with case as a nonpolitical issue. Joint efforts exerted yesterday by the foreign minister and Arab League's secretary general to reach a compromise and a way out were inconclusive. Lebanon proposed , among other proposals, that Iraq to participate with a symbolic representation without joining the sport games, or to play sports which Kuwait and Saudi Arabia do not play, but these proposals were not accepted or did not receive a clear comment.

-In the meantime, Iraq's Olympic Committee announced it will dispatch Iraqi athletes to Lebanon after being granted permission from Syrian authorities to cross its border to the Lebanese border at Masnaa. Lebanese security source in Bekaa said the general security has no memo banning entry of the Iraqi athletes, but the sport and youth administration was instructed not to receive Iraqi athletes visa applications same as other Arab participants. The Iraqi athletes threatened to demonstrate or sit in at the border point at Masnaa in protest to the decision. The Iraqi team arrived last night to Syria hoping they will be allowed to enter Lebanon. They were transported overland from Baghdad on four buses and include 95 athletes, trainers, and officials. Another separate truck carried portable stoves, food and water for the athletes journey.

-The dispute has overshadowed the Arab Eighth Games. Preparations for the games in Beirut almost completed, with flags of all participating states were hoisted across the capital. They did not include any Iraqi banner. The opening ceremony will be held at 8-30 p.m. LT and continues for over two hours. Lebanon three top officials, Arab League's secretary general, and Arab Lebanese political and sport officials will attend. The scenario included 19 Arab state.

-Lebanon has made its decision not only toward Iraq's participation but over the name of the sport city. MP Boutros Harb quoted president Elias Hrawi, who will inaugurate the games, saying he will announce during the opening speech name of "Camille Chamoun Sport City". Hrawi called Harb and MP Nayla Moawad, also other MPs and ministers, who were going to boycott the ceremony, to attend it.

-Meanwhile, Director general of the Lebanese industrial marketing company Fares Saad, which is a private company, yesterday said Lebanon is going to buy Iraqi oil, while many Lebanese industrialists are seeking to sign contracts with Iraq in framework of the "oil for food" accord. He said executives from 20 Lebanese private company are going to visit Baghdad early next month. Saad also said that some 150 Lebanese company will have a food and industrial exhibition in Baghdad on September and it will conclude agreements to supply Iraq with food products. He hoped that the Lebanese government's decision to not allow Iraqi athletes to participate in the Arab Games would not affect trade relations between the two countries. He regretted the sudden decision of not granting entry visas to Iraqi athletes.

Kfarfalous Crossing-SLA Artillery signals

-The Israeli backed SLA militia yesterday sent more artillery signals-letters before and afternoon aimed to undermine and obstruct the reopening of the crossing after Lebanese army cleared the area of mines. One artillery 120mm shell was fired in morning hours of the day from Roum hill at the vicinity of the army work zone near Kfarfalous but it fell 250m short. At 7.00 p.m four SLA 155mm artillery shells were fired at the vicinity of Ain el Mir-Kfarfalous crossing. The second day shelling of the SLA intended to deliberately obstruct reopening. It will perhaps too prevent Jezzine area's residents of using the crossing, as it continue until now to prevent anyone, even the pressmen, to walk to Kfarfalous. The SLA rejection of the crossing would continue until return of SLA commander Antoine Lahd from Paris. The army communiqué said the army forces continued their work to clear land mines despite the Lahd militia's firing for second day. The militiamen threatened Lebanese army soldiers, through loud speakers, not to advance to Jezzine crossing.

Parliament-Government, News of Harmony not Stagnation

-Parliament's debate at the yearly extra session ending 15th July according to constitution was abruptly suspended yesterday before the Mps have the chance to discuss three thorny proposals presented by the opposition, drawing speculation that both the prime minister and speaker wanted to avoid a last minute confrontation before the summer recess. House speaker skipped the first item on the 13 item agenda which was an opposition draft to amend the cabinet decision to raise custom duties on imported cars. He also skipped the tenth item on regulating the broadcast channels and frequencies of the audio-visual media. A third one was a draft presented by Hizbullah on amnesty for those imprisoned on drug-related charges. The session was suspended five minutes after the deputy speaker Elie Firzli was put in charge by the speaker.

- Premier Hariri will leave to Spain and Britain, and later to Greece. President Hrawi is preparing to travel to Brazil in September. The house speaker is preparing himself to go to Armenia and Rumania. What had passed already passed. The outcries over the displaced, the municipal elections and custom duties on cars are of no use anymore, and until the parliament reconvenes in October, things will cool down.

-The first extra session was indeed extra as it witnessed a real translation of the harmony among presidents, which came after a period of political bickering, which surprisingly ended and replaced by harmony. Political analyst said "As long the regional situation does not allow right democratic practice, why not the parliament replace debate sessions by another with questions and responses only”.

-The first outcry was from the displaced minister Walid Jumblat. He has hoped that the cabinet, and Hariri in particular, pump money to the displaced fund, but that did not take place, neither the meeting between the two men that was scheduled yesterday. Jumblat refused linkage between the $150mn lending to the displaced fund and the prime minister's rural development plan or the foreign financing. Jumblat said "If my work is to be stopped, let them put in charge of the ministry someone other than me". He said he still sticks to his stand that return of the displaced should not be financed through treasury bonds, but through studies in depth of the charges on seaside state's land. He warned of further debt without specific ceiling, saying it poses a great danger. He excluded that the people accept more taxes. Jumblat said the "danger lies in the rhetoric that either to borrow money or no money to the displaced, something signals a tendency to cancel the displaced ministry or undermine its role". He argued that "since the revival plan was prepared since sometime, why we have reached an impasse now, and are the few millions sufficient for the required needs, also who will spend the money and who will supervise it". About the meeting that was scheduled Thursday and did not take place, Jumblat said "I am here in Mukhtara and the meeting did not occur". He said "I made all possible effort at the cabinet meeting July 9 and was keen to maintain calm in expressing my view, but it did not work, what can we do about it ?".


-President Hrawi broke the silence over postponing the municipal elections and said nothing prevent the elections to take place before April 1999, and if the government finished the related draft law elections can be held anytime. Addressing Greek catholic annual charity dinner at Achrafieh, he said the country can be adjusted by serious criticism, but a criticism which leads to break the confidence between the state and the citizen, is a break of the state, the citizen and the country. Hrawi said "If the government is mistaken, let it be adjusted, and if it did right let it be valued". He said return of the displaced is a national great priority.

-Patriarch Sfair told a German delegation that Lebanon has returned united but problems are elsewhere. He argued why the general elections were possible and the municipal elections are not. He was informed of building Mar Cherbel church in Homs in Syria.

-Metn MP Nassib Lahoud said he will appeal to the Constitutional Council against the extension of the municipalities term until 1999. Former MP August Bakhus urged the president to return the law and said he will place over the Constitutional Council a text challenging the law.

-French ambassador excluded any separate unilateral peace accord between Lebanon and Israel, saying his country is doing hard to revive the peace process. He emphasized the comprehensive peace settlement in the region.

-Douri Chamoun returned to Australia coming from New Zealand.

-Next to Mufti Mohammed Rachid Kabbani who is currently in a visit to Egypt, the head of the Shiite High Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine is to leave tomorrow to Cairo too upon an invitation from Egyptian minister of Al Awkaf..

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili brought "hunger revolution" to the southern suburb Hey Selloum and Amrousieh. Addressing some 2,000 people at the poor Hay Selloum, Tufeili threatened to throw the garbage into officials houses, if the government does not make arrangements to remove piles of garbage there and supply the area with water. Tufeili's tour in Selloum came six days after his hunger revolution at Baalbek. He said the quarter is like cemetery for the living. He said the government cannot anymore reopen the incinerator at Amrousieh. He said "This is a place where human beings live".

-Director general of the emigrants ministry Haitham Jumaa, speaking at a seminar held by the ministry to discuss Lebanese emigrants situation in Africa, said his ministry is anticipating troubles in one of the African countries shortly, and the Lebanese there will be posed to great danger. He did not name the African country. reports said it is Senegal where some unusual events are taking place. Jumaa said the government should prepare emergency plans to evacuate the Lebanese there, otherwise a catastrophe will take place.

-Israel's government expressed dismay of the Amnesty International Report on Lebanese prisoners in Israel. Government spokesman said the Lebanese detainees in Israel were detained according to emergency law, and "if there are Lebanese prisoners in Israel, mostly because of their terrorist actions and for wanting to kill Israelis".

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