News from Beirut July 30 1997 ...Search

US Travel Ban - Now Caution

-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright on her way back home from an Asian tour called Lebanon's premier Rafic Hariri and informed him of lifting the US travel ban on Lebanon turning it to cautioning. Premier Hariri at a press conference amid receiving the good news said the US decision is a drastic change and will reflect positively on Lebanon and it's economy. He said the Lebanese Americans and US businessmen can now visit the country more than ever. Hariri said his government will do whatever possible to ensure safety of the Americans same as any other foreign visitor. He said there were contacts with the Americans and many envoys came to Lebanon and observed the improvement of security, noting that the army and the ISF have developed and the security of the country is under control. Hariri said the decision was a result of an American conviction not anything else. As to the cautioning of Americans to travel to Lebanon, Hariri said this is a US affair and has connection with the US politics but it won't change the actual situation. On the resumption of both the US and Lebanese airliners' flight services, Hariri said this would be a next step. Hariri said the decision today was a result of the Friends of Lebanon's conference that was held in Washington, and the decision was expected to be taken amid the conference but it was delayed. Mr.. Hariri said that a chart on hostage taking is to be signed by Lebanon, saying the chart has been approved by the government and it is on the right track at the parliament.

-House speaker Nabih Berri after receiving the news said the US decision will have good impact on the US itself.

-President Elias Hrawi in an interview with a satellite station said he is hopeful the lift would be a start of further US measures. He denied any conditions or terms or security cooperation deal and said the lift will enhance Lebanon's moral. He said the lift would encourage all those wishing to visit Lebanon to observe the reconstruction, the 6,000 year's civilization, and the ongoing festivals allover the country. Hrawi said Lebanon's wealth is the culture and the Lebanese overseas, adding that he is hopeful the present security situation will continue as now and through the Lebanese self security forces, so that more visitors and more investments would come to Lebanon. . Hrawi said "each occupied country should resist the occupant”. He said combating terrorism in Lebanon is a Lebanese affair and that it's government had actually combated terrorism, but the resistance in south Lebanon is not terrorism".

South Lebanon-UNIFIL Mandate and Monitoring Group

-The UN security council yesterday unanimously agreed without discussion to extend the mandate of the UN peace keeping force UNIFIL in south Lebanon for six more months until Jan 31. 1998. The 4,488 man force was stationed in Lebanon in 1978.

-US ambassador Richard Jones after his yesterday's meeting with premier Hariri said the violence in south Lebanon is fluctuate but the last year April's understanding is still successful in lessening civilians fatalities on both sides and in easing the tension. He said despite the frequent tension in south Lebanon there is no escalatory tension at all.

-At Naqoura in south Lebanon, the five nation cease-fire monitoring group is to hold this afternoon it's 15th meeting since early this year. The group will examine complaints filed by both Israel and Lebanon amid the recent violent confrontations.

-France's new head of the French team at the monitoring group ambassador Laurant Joseph Rabain announced he will share in today's meeting of the monitoring group inaugurating his mission after succeeding his predecessor Jean Michel Goussault. The new head yesterday met Lebanon's foreign ministry secretary general Zafer el Hassan in Beirut.

-Delegation of Canada branch's of the Amnesty International at a press conference yesterday held at Lebanon's Journalists Association HQ in Beirut announced that it's visit to Lebanon aimed to inquire the situation of the Lebanese detainees in the Israeli jail at Khiam. The delegation said it will try to enter the Khiam prison on August 11th.

-The Islamic resistance claimed responsibility of three attacks against Israel and its backed militia the SLA's outposts at Qantara, Dabsheh and Toumat Niha, saying it inflicted damages in vehicles and cars that belong to the Israeli backed militia.

The AMAL movement claimed responsibility of two attacks against the Israeli and SLA forces at a roadside near Qantara.

-The Hizbullah Jihad el Binaa checked damages that have occurred in Habbouche village during the last Israeli artillery shelling and promised to start reparations at the earliest.

-Head of the Lebanese Journalists Association Melhem Karam appealed to the UN general secretary to intervene to release Lebanese journalist Roger Nohra and his two cousins and borther. Nohra and the three others were detained by Israel but their whereabouts were not revealed yet. Karam said Nohra committed no crime other than reporting and highlighting the facts on Israel's mal practices and the heroic actions of the resistance.

Government Preoccupations

-Lebanon senior top officials conferred over series of topics and issues especially the recommendations taken at the latest economical ideas forum. US ambassador Richard Jones after his meeting with premier Hariri said his administration is ready to form a new economical policy. The issue of Beirut suburbs' garbage and dump was also on top list. Despite sheikh Subhi Tufeili's opposition to the temporary dump at Maramel west of the airport road, the government is backed by AMAL and Hizbullah on the dump, something will limit Tufeili's move. The government is determined to deal firmly with any new assault against the new dump's location. The parliament extra session was apparently shelved for the time being because the government is not likely to encourage parliament to discuss and debate turbulent issues. Furthermore, the rift between the president and the prime minister on the internal security forces ISF's restructuring was not yet resolved. Prime minister Hariri, who yesterday returned back from a trip that followed his official visit to Greece, held two separate meetings with the president and speaker to discuss major issues. It is confirmed that the government will not hold it's weekly meeting today. Premier Hariri was quoted saying that top files now are south of Lebanon and the budget deficit.

-President Elias Hrawi told reporters at Baabda palace that the US administration is not giving momentum to the peace process at this stage and that the regional situation is now strained because of Israel's hardline policy. On the internal files, Hrawi said the parliament extra session requires urgent pressing bills. He said the government has finalized a bill on the municipal elections which is now ready to be placed on parliament. Hrawi said he is persisting to hold these elections at the earliest. He said the bill on restructuring the ISF is still under discussion. On the media, he said he would not have opposed licensing all stations since the beginning and regretted the confessional sectarian approach of the issue. Hrawi said he does not agree to any increase on taxes before halting waste of public money at some public administrations, and mentioned the surplus teachers and information ministry extra staff.

-Premier Hariri's meeting with the house speaker centered on regenerating the public administrations, the budget deficit, and the work to implement recommendations of the ideas forum, which will be completed by a social forum on 18th and 19th August. Premier Hariri said his government's bid to deal with the budget deficit series of meetings will start to be held as of now to treat the case. House speaker Berri is said to have told MPs they can leave and travel out of the country because an extra session will not be held.


-Brazil's house speaker Michel Tamer visited his parents birth place village at Btaaboura in Koura and kissed the house's stones saying he felt he was born there.

-House speaker Nabih Berri is to visit Tehran in September and meets the president- elect and former president.

-Interior minister Michel Murr at a meeting with Lebanon's six region's governors said the spate of revolts or whatsoever should be dealt with firmly. He mentioned that at Bekaa some 271 illegal house constructions took place in two months time, but he noted that a law violation action remains a violation. He said the spate of revolts have spread over to all regions but the government should not be ignored and law should be enforced on all. He asked the security forces to deal firmly with violation of law. Murr said the government has dealt smoothly with the revolts or other moves but all should remember that the state is stronger than all other parties. Murr said that the Beirut suburbs huge garbage piles should not remain polluting the area and harming people because some 400 or 500 are against the new dump or because they dictate where it should be located.

Murr denied an allegation by Mp Najah Wakim that one of Baalbek roman pillars was moved to one of the official's residences.

-MP Najah Wakim said the Lebanese law prohibit armed revolts and disobedience but not the peaceful protests.

-Papers reports today noticed that architects of the hunger revolution and protest meeting are tending to moderacy and softened their tone. Kesrouan MP Rshayd el Khazen after a visit to prime minister Hariri today said Mayrouba-Kesrouan gathering on Sunday was a meeting not a revolt.

-The displaced ministry demand of an annual steady revenue to finance the return of all displaced remains pending. The ministry said without funds there is no possibility to lay down a fixed timetable on return.

-Jezzine ministers, MPs, and dignitaries at a meeting today at Mar Roukos monastery at Dekwaneh discussed the situation in their town. Dutch ambassador in Lebanon attended the meeting to report to the European Union on the case.

-Patriarch Sfair visitors including NLP leader Douri Chamoun raised the case of the displaced. Chamoun said there is no more a state of law in Lebanon and that is the problem. The patriarch received a delegation of Kahale town who raised the issue of displaced and the planned Arab highway that will cross their town. Former Chuf Mp and minister Joseph el Hashem handed the patriarch his survey on the actual return of displaced and relevant tables and figures. Hashem denied the displaced ministry allegation that 30-40 per cent of the displaced already returned. He said out of the 40,000 people of Damour on the coast, only 1.5 per cent returned back.

-Displaced minister Walid Jumblat received delegations demanding compensations and schedule of return . He received Bishop Capucci who called Lebanese overseas, especially those in Europe, to contribute to the return of the displaced.

-Banners and statements in Beirut and other regions in Lebanon hailed the army in it's national day on August 1st.

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili in a new statement said the government to open fire on the people in the southern suburbs is more easy than placing garbage inside their residential areas. He warned the government of misconduct against the people. He said his meeting at Akkar has frightened many of the politicians.

-Head of the Muslim Shiite high council sheikh Mohammed Mahdim Shamseddine continues his critics to the government. Observers say its a divorce after the honeymoon between the two sides. Shamseddine is to launch his private religious-political radio stations shortly. The file of religious media stations is once again a turbulent issue in Lebanon. Druze acting sheikh Akl demanded a media station, the Armenians protest not granting them a license. Information minister Bassem Sabbaa visited Mufti Kabbani and admitted the Mufti's right to have his own community's station.

-Algerian former president Ahmad bin Bella visited Hizbullah leadership at the southern suburbs and said he touched high morals among the party.

-UN coordinator in Lebanon Ross Mountain said he is afraid the people of Hermel-Baalbek would return to drug cultivation in future because of the living conditions and hardships. He said the UN lacked the funds to extend agricultural loans. He said the UN will help the people there to earn living with new methods but cannot make miracles.

-Beirut criminal court is to declare tomorrow the sentence on the Japanese Red Army five. Japanese reporters and correspondents were coming since Monday to the justice palace in Beirut to report the sentence. Ambassador of Japan after a visit to the foreign ministry said his government is trying to extradite the five after the trial and implementing the sentence in Lebanon because of violations they have committed in Japan or elsewhere.

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