News from Beirut July 15  1997 ...Search

Iraq, Sports and Politics, Exclusion And Repercussions

-Iraq trade ministry's source quoted saying a visit to Lebanon next month of an Iraqi trade and industrialists' delegation has been postponed until further notice. The visit was scheduled to take place on 19th August. It was the first such visit by an Iraqi trade delegation to Lebanon since the Gulf war in 1990 and was expected to consecrate resumption of trade exchanges between two countries. Last Thursday Lebanon and Iraq signed an agreement aimed to set up a Lebanese trade fair in Baghdad on September. The source did not mention whether the postponement included the fair too.

-"It was a simple equation; Lebanon barred Iraqi athletes to enter the country and Iraq reacted postponing trade delegation's visit", leading daily's comment said today. None of the Lebanese concerned ministers gave any comment, recalled that most of them are out of the country, except the foreign minister Fares Boeuiz who refrained to comment. The observers expect moves of openness to freeze at present and perhaps to halt indefinitely.

-Contrary to the state officials, business and economy circles lashed out the exclusion of Iraqi athletes which has deprived Lebanon of an export channel, at a time the country's industry is facing hardships. Others suggested that it was Lebanon's national interest that implied the exclusion move, despite the importance of Iraq. Head of Lebanon chambers of commerce Adnan Kassar said he has intervened to change prime minister Hariri's stand on granting visas to Iraqi athletes but he was determined. Kassar wished that Iraqi counterparts do not react with same stand, and urged them to surmount the issue, for the good of both countries' economy. Head of Beirut chamber's economical committee Najib Khatib has different viewpoint. Khatib recalled that Saudi Arabia is the major importer, additional to 70,000 Lebanese family living in the kingdom and send transfers to the country. He added that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are major contributors, including the last contribution to rebuild the Sports City. Khatib said the openness toward Iraq is at early stage and nothing can assure it would lead to a tangible result.

Head of Lebanon Industrialists association's foreign relation Ahmad Kabbara announced he would resign his post in protest to the exclusion. Kabbara said Iraq's imports from Lebanon were 40 per cent of  total exports before the UN embargo. He revealed that around 200 Lebanese industrialist were planning to visit Baghdad. He recalled that Syria's openness toward Iraq did not harm its relation with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

-Political sources in Beirut said the Iraqi reaction would prompt more Kuwaiti and Saudi aid to Lebanon to compensate what was expected from the openness with Iraq.

South Lebanon- Last Year's Understanding on the Brink

-An Islamic resistance attack at 5.30 p.m Monday against an SLA patrol at Bourj-Saidoun mainroad in Jezzine area, where an SLA APC was destroyed, triggered Israeli and SLA artillery shelling at several villages in Iqlim Toffah. The artillery shelling continued for an hour. Shells that struck the village of Kfarhatta and Kfarmilki damaged a garage and house. Shells struck also the village Berti where two Palestinian civilians, a mother and her son were killed, and wounded the daughter. The three Palestinians were working in a farm. Four more shells landed 50 m far from a Lebanese army checkpoint at Kfarhatta. At 7.15 p.m Israeli warplanes flew over the region and fired two air to surface missiles at a valley in the area. SLA said two of its men were slightly wounded in the attack. The Israeli shelling this time spread over to east Sidon, threatening a move to reopen the Kfarfalous crossing.

The village Berti is 5 km far from the crossing. An Israeli force came under mortar fire at Ghozlan outpost. The Israeli and SLA artillery retaliated by shelling villages north of the security zone.

-President Elias Hrawi said Monday Lebanon is determined to reopen the crossing and the decision was already taken and will be enforced. He said if we did not succeed it should not be understood that we are hesitant. Hrawi, speaking to the Maronite League new board, said anyone proved to be collaborating with Israel will be referred to military court.

-Patriarch Sfair told a French delegation Monday that Lebanon has entered peace era on surface but it did not reach phase of security because of the Israeli repeated aggressions against south Lebanon.

-SLA Voice of South radio celebrated Monday its 12th anniversary. SLA commander Antoine Lahd, who arrived recently from France, and Israeli activities coordinator in Lebanon Uri Lubrani and others were present. Lahd said the Hizbullah and the Lebanese state are attacking the SLA through media rather than military. He said Hizbullah will not force the SLA change its stand neither its position. Lahd, asked to comment on foreign minister Fares Boueiz remark that the Kfarfaloous crossing reopening was to help SLA men to desert, said the minister know nothing about geography and "there are many routes for running away if we want to do so". Lubrani said a political solution is the only way to restore calm and security in the region, but it is attached to two things :

1. To ensure security on both sides of the border and dismantle the "terrorist" groups

2. To ensure the future of "our allies" in the region. He stated that Israel is extremely concerned of its allies, and it won’t go out of south Lebanon unless it is sure that the measure is applied, and that there are guarantees for their future and right. He said Hizbullah was pressing in the past 12 years to force Israel to unilaterally pull out, but that did not happen. Lubrani said the SLA will remain in Jezzine as long its commander wants so.

-Lebanon marked Monday the day of Lebanese captive on 14th July with sit in protests at Lebanon's major towns. A major sit in was staged off the ICRC headquarters in Beirut. Banners called for the release of all detainees in Israeli jails and called for the destruction of the Khiam concentration camp.

-Commander of the UN peace force UNIFIL in south Lebanon after a meeting with foreign minister Fares Boueiz accused Israel of violating the last year's April understanding. He said the UNIFIL filed a strong worded protest against Israel excessive fire in south, expressing his concern for the situation in Jezzine and its neighborhood. He said the monitoring committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the Israeli killing of Lebanese elderly civilian. Lebanon's foreign ministry and the UNIFIL signed an agreement that stated Lebanon to pay 100,000 dollar rent for UNIFIL's office in Beirut.

-Lebanon contacts with the UN over extension of the UNIFIL mandate for six more months signaled that the measure is definitely sure despite Washington's inquiry and the voting at the UN general assembly decision on bombing Qana village.

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