News from Beirut July 7  1997 ...Search

Government-Troika-Urgent topics

-Lebanon's parliament is debating today the government policy at a plenary session that will continue until tomorrow. In the next two days the parliament will vote on draft bills. The parliament has already elected three members of the constitutional council including Amin Nassar-Maronite, Hussein Hamdan-Shiite, and Mustafaa Awja-Sunni. Former prime minister Selim Hoss was first to speak at the session. He said visits to Lebanon by Pope John Paul II, president of the World Bank, prime minister of Malaysia, and the last recent visit by Saudi Arabia's crown prince Abdullah were achievements, but even though, the government failed to put forward solution for the hard economy crisis.

-President Elias Hrawi Saturday's summit in Damascus with Syrian president Hafez Assad came prior to the plenary session. Topics of discussion centered on regional developments which, according to reports, were generally not relaxing except the Arab tendency to boycott the economical summit at Doha-Qatar. Local files were also discussed and the Syrian leadership said to have pushed forward for a rapprochement between the three presidents.

- Chief of the Syrian army intelligence in Lebanon Brig. Ghazi Kanaan yesterday evening visited both prime minister Hariri and house speaker Berri perhaps to follow up the moves should be taken. The three presidents meeting Sunday at Baabda palace on verge of the plenary session and amid the summit, has revived speculation that the meeting was a rebirth and resumption of the troika rule system. Press reports put down the speculation and said its only the accumulating files that prompted consultation among the three top officials. Prime minister Hariri visited Hrawi and Berri more than one time at the evening. Hariri's shuttle visits centered on sorting out differences on issues such as the appointments in the judiciary, restructuring the internal security forces ISF, and renaming the sport city. Mr. Hariri also presided a meeting of his parliamentary bloc to coordinate stands during the session and to respond to Sheikh Subhi Tufeili's remarks on 4th July.

-Leading report today said the economical situation and living conditions were among the topics discussed on Sunday. Measures aimed to treat the economical crisis are to be taken. The central bank governor and economical experts joined the Sunday's meeting and presented their concepts. The unspecified measures include the education, hospitalization, and low earners salaries. The officials discussed the possibility of issuing in London a 30 years treasury bonds with interest lower than the market's rate.

South Lebanon- April's Understanding- Fatalities and Katyusha

-The Israeli artillery yesterday fired ferocious barrage wounding eight civilians including a 7 year old boy who lost his left eye drawing counter Katyusha rockets from the resistance. The boy Ali Mukallid and two other adults were wounded in the village of Jarjou in Iqlim Toffah. Israeli heavy machine gun fire and mortar rounds rained on the village since 9.00 a.m Sunday and continued intermittently throughout the day, marking a significant escalation of violence in the turbulent south Lebanon. The last year's April understanding has suffered a major blow as a result of Israel's violations. Following the land attack, Israeli helicopters and warplanes raided several times the hideouts and routes used by the resistance. The Israeli escalation said to be in avenge of the killing of the commander of Israel's parachuters engineering unit who has the rank of Major. The Israeli officer has been killed in an ambush carried by the Islamic resistance near Sojod. Both Israel and the resistance traded different types of arms fire for five consecutive hours turning the region into a war scene. On Sunday evening the village of Kfartabnite was posed to further Israeli artillery barrage wounding four more persons. In a significant serious development, security sources in south said seven Katyusha rockets were fired at 10.05 p.m. evening and struck Galilee in north Israel. Israeli military sources said mortar shells or perhaps rockets have exploded Sunday evening near the border with Lebanon and no casualties were reported. In a later dispatch the rockets said to have exploded along two sides of the border but inflicted no casualties.

-The new heavy round of violence came on verge of the five nation cease-fire monitoring committee meeting which will examine complaints presented by Israel and Lebanon before Saturday. Meanwhile, Israel's defense minister reiterated again that his country is ready to pull out of south Lebanon "If  the Lebanese army could control the region". He told the Israeli radio, while condoling an Israeli family who's son officer killed in Lebanon, "If the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army are capable to take responsibility of the south and can avert terror actions, Israel will have no reason to keep its forces in the region". He said that during his visits to the US, France, Britain and elsewhere he tried to persuade the western countries of the necessity to enhance the Lebanese army and Lebanese government for that purpose". He repeated that Israel has no claim in any inch of the Lebanese territory. The defense minister has been criticized by the Israeli Knesset last week for his proposal on France's participation in a multi nation force, with the mission to support the Lebanese army after Israel pull out of south Lebanon. Lebanon and Syria have rejected the proposal.

- In another development, reliable sources told a leading daily that the Ain el Mir-Kfarfalous crossing will be opened in hours time. The sources said that the security and military forces took all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the region's people, and to avert any Israeli attempt to benefit any loophole. The sources revealed that the Lebanese army engineers checked the crossing and its vicinity searching for land mines and unexploded shells before removing all land barricades and fortifications. The measures that will be enforced along the crossing would be the same one enforced at Bater-Jezzine crossing. It is designed to avert infiltration of collaborators with Israel to the liberated areas. The reopening of the 12 years erected crossing has been unilaterally decided by the government of Lebanon in response to demands by Jezzine's residents.

Maronite League, Pierre Helou landslide Win

-Former minister and MP of Aley Pierre Helou won the presidency of the Maronite League with a massive majority of 419 votes out of 820. 11 members of his ticket won membership of the executive body. Helou won double the votes of his major rival Niamatallah Abi Nasr who won 287 votes. He succeeded Ernest Karam and will remain in the office for three years. He described the poll as a role model of parliamentary elections. Almost all Maronite figures and trends participated in the poll including former and present MPs and ministers. Helou, with long life at the heart of politics, said his priority is to implement the apostolic exhortation delivered by the Pope during his visit to Lebanon.

Army Raids In Bekaa

-Lebanese army soldiers rounded up dozens of people in surprise weekend raids in Hermel -Baalbek area. Some 120 people have been arrested but 30 only remained in custody for charges ranging from drug -related activities and possession of weapons. The arrests took place at the villages of Maqneh, Kneisseh, and Riha. All situated between Baalbek and Hermel. Interior minister Michel Murr said the raids made advantage of the large number of security men in the area who were policing the hunger revolution on 4th July. Bekaa MPs and people in the region staged a sit-in on Saturday afternoon to condemn the raids. Citizens at the sit-in told stories of violent and heavy handed treatment. Hizbullah MP condemned the raids and the "unjustified violence also humiliation of the people”. He said "Once again the government commits arbitrary practices under the pretext of looking for suspects".

Hunger Revolution, What’s Next ?

-Defense minister and Bekaa MP Mohsen Dalloul warned Sunday that Sheikh Subhi Tufeili's promise to step up the protest and carry it to Beirut will be firmly resisted. He said stepping out of the law is not permitted. Dalloul said the government had no objection to raise socio-economic demands but "If anyone wants to bring down the regime, let him say so clearly, since the slogans have taken this movement off the peaceful path". Dalloul defended prime minister Hariri's government as having contributed to the region, but it cannot be blamed for the region's chronic socio-economic and infra structural problems which have lasted decades.

- Justice minister Bahij Tabbarra said the movement was threatening to move along the road to using forms of protests that would be illegal, whether according to the constitution or the cabinet decisions. Tabbara argued that the constitution had stipulated freedom of expression but not freedom of  demonstration.

- Social affairs minister Ayub Hmayed said the protest was not proceeding on the right path. he said other regions in Lebanon have problems same as in Bekaa and the government is trying to put end to problems in rural areas.

-Transport minister Omar Miskawi called the hunger revolution a sign of the country's drift, accusing its advocates of playing with fire. Miskawi claimed that behind the hunger revolution there were political elements. He said this is not a hunger revolution but "a revolution of hunger for power".

-Patriarch Sfair, on his regular Sunday's sermon at Bkerke, before leaving the same day to his summer seat at Diman in north, said the negligence of the government in dealing with the people's socio-economic plight "leads to disturbances in the regime and profound disturbances in public order, as people begin to employ whatever type of arbitrary action or expression of political power they wish".


- President Elias Hrawi inaugurating a wax museum at Chuf Saturday called for sincere unity to encourage return of the displaced.

- Heat sparked seven blazes at north lebanon olive and fruit orchards.

- Emigrants affairs minister Talal Arsalan said his ministry is working to boost contacts between the Lebanese expatriates and their native country. Arsalan, who was attending a festival for the emigrants at Rashaya on Saturday, said further festivals will be held in all regions in the country, also youth summer camps for Lebanese emigrants to introduce the young generation of expatriates to their country of origin. Arsalan said his ministry will dispatch emigrants attaches to countries with large expatriate communities in the near future. He said the attache will work under the ambassador, and directly with the expatriates, but there will be no overlapping of authority with the embassies.

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