News from Beirut July 9  1997 ...Search

Parliament-Government, What was the merit of Plenary session ?

The session ended yesterday evening with 17 MPs addressing the parliament and the TV audience at a morning and evening debates. The second day session was furious and heated but not as the first day was. Prime minister Hariri and some of the ministers were assertive and aggressive in responding to critics of some MPs, particularly MPs including Najah Wakim, Zaher Khatib, and Wadee Akl of the national Struggle Bloc led by Walid Jumblat. At the end of the session, Hariri and state minister for finance Fouad Seniora were on the offensive. Hariri said "We did not come to office on tanks but through elections. There are people who play with the country". He was quoted saying the opposition has nothing else than out crying and it has no program neither alternatives. He said the opposition's alternatives are merely critics, propaganda, and attempt to break all positive and good work, to the extent that after each positive action by the government negative things did take place. He said in his closing statement that "This is the fate of the country, we should forgive and look ahead without looking to minor things". He put emphasis on common living and its development, calling the Lebanese to trust each other because concentrating on our disagreement will damage the country. The opposition MPs, in reaction to the government's dominance during most of the session time, argued why not the government present a statement at the beginning of the debate, so that they can discuss it properly. House speaker Nabih Berri pledged that any future debate session in parliament would have to be preceded by a policy statement released by the government.

-The displaced issue was a leading topic discussed at the morning. The argument revealed a friction that was going on between Hariri and displaced minister Walid Jumblat over who should control the issue. The government showed reluctance to allocate $100mn to the displaced ministry to complete the its repatriation program . Chuf MP and member of Jumblat's led National Struggle Bloc Waddeh Akl lashed out at the government's handling of the issue. He accused the government of deciding to evict people from some regions in the country without the knowledge of the displaced minister. Akl accused the government of political blackmail through its funding the return by means of treasury lending saying this is the worst funding. He was referring to areas where the Arab highway is expected to go through. Akl also criticized the government for giving the cabinet a short notice to examine the draft on building the highway. He said the ministers were given 48 hours only to examine this file, and furthermore, the cabinet was only given a summary of the entire project. Akl said the eviction decision as enforced by the interior ministry is not fair, as it did not differentiate between the squatters and those who were not. He said this is a discriminative policy by the government which always paid attention to squatters rather than the real displaced. Hariri rejected Akl allegations. At the evening session, Hariri said that an MP submitted during the day an urgent bill asking to transfer the authority for the management of the displaced funds from the prime minister to the ministry of the displaced. Hariri did not name the MP but sources said it was Hariri's sister Sidon's Mp Bahiya Hariri. Hariri defended his government saying "None has ever defended the displaced case more than the government and the prime minister in person despite all errors".

-Jumblat's circles denied later in the evening a reported crisis between him and Hariri. The circles said the prime minister continues to prepare for measures to pump money for the displaced fund in agreement with Jumblat. It described the argument at the debate session as natural since it reflected opposite viewpoints on the real existing financial shortage. A scheduled meeting yesterday between Jumblat and Hariri was postponed until Thursday due to the debate session. Political observers say that the high tone of the prime minister toward the displaced issue meant that future financing of the displaced will be firmly restricted whether the parliament accepted the MPs proposed draft or not.

South Lebanon- Dawn Mortar Shells At Israel

-Security sources in Jerusalem quoted by news agencies saying some mortar shells fired from Lebanon dawn today fell north of Israel but inflicted no casualties. The sources said perhaps the shells were fired at Israeli positions inside south Lebanon but stepped over its targets. The Israeli army said it is inquiring the accuracy of the report.

-US embassy charge d'affaires Ron Schlicher yesterday called for everyone in south Lebanon to maintain self-control. After a meeting with prime minister Hariri, he said "obviously, I am not going to say anything that is going to help increase tension. I think it is incumbent on all states who have interest in the region to defuse the situation". Schlicher said his country wants the monitoring group to do what it was established to do, which is to help diffuse the tension in the South". He said the situation there tend to be calm more than before.

-The village of Aitaroun inside the occupied security zone is under Israeli siege for 19th consecutive day. An 80 year old man has been crushed yesterday by an Israeli armored personnel carrier APC in Houla inside the security zone. Driver of the APC lost control and pinned the man to wall. His relative told reporters that the Israelis stopped people from helping him.

Sports and Politics; The Eighth Pan Arab Games, Arab Disputes Overshadow The Event

-Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti envoys in Lebanon expressed hope that Lebanon would not allow Iraqi athletes to participate in the eighth Arab games three days before its launching. The 7 year old dispute between Iraqi and Kuwait is threatening to overshadow the landmark event designed as a showcase for Lebanon's revival. The Arab League's secretary general Abdel Maguid  intervened yesterday to secure clearance for the Iraqi athletes to take part in the games opening in Beirut on Saturday. Iraq accused Kuwait of using money and power to try to eliminate Iraqi teams from taking part. Kuwait threatened to boycott contests in which Iraq participates. The host Lebanon, caught in the middle, does not want to upset Kuwaiti friend, but shackled by an Arab League invitation to Iraq to join the competition which runs until 27th July. Following intensive contacts, Kuwait and Saudi Arabian envoys said they will report Lebanon's government today of their governments final stand on the issue. The Arab League secretary is due to arrive tomorrow to take part in Saturday's opening. On Monday, when selections were made for teams in soccer, basketball and volleyball, Iraq's name was not included in the draws. An unnamed organizing source said Iraq was deliberately excluded in the selections in order to avoid a Kuwaiti walkout. The source said Lebanon did not invite Iraq but an invitation from the Arab League means approval of the host country is not needed. Monday's draw was condemned by the Iraqi daily Babil. The paper, without naming Kuwait, said the organizing committee "is a toy in the hands of those who have the power and money, thinking they can scratch the name of Iraq out of the records". Iraq was excluded from the 7th Arab Games held in Syria in 1992, but recent rapprochement between Baghdad and other Arab capitals prompted the Arab League to invite it. Lebanon first tried to diffuse the tension by trying to avoid the two countries to have to compete face to face.

-Meanwhile, the end of construction work on the sport city stadium was marked yesterday by a "topping out" ceremony. Trafalgar House, the contractor, said the ceremony was a traditional event at the end of any contract. The project had been plagued by financial concerns with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia the only Arab countries to provide funds for the city reconstruction. Both

countries contributed $26mn out of the total $74.75mn cost. Other Arab countries ignored pledges they made in 1993 to stump up the total cost. During last year's Israeli 16 day onslaught against Lebanon work on the stadium had been halted after Israeli helicopters rocketed the nearby southern suburbs. The offensive caused the Lebanese government to postpone the games which were due to be held last summer.


-No further news about reopening the Kfarfalous crossing. Contacts underway to dispatch a new Vatican envoy to Jezzine to reside there may be positive.

-Douri Chamoun began Monday his visit to New Zealand and was received by Lebanese community. He will meet there the foreign minister and other officials before going back to Melbourne in Australia.

-The National Gathering (NLP, Kataeb opposition andGen. Aoun loyals) said the practices of the government are not anymore tolerable. The gathering demanded definition of the date to close the displaced file and publicly commit to it. It accused the government of liquidating the case of the displaced.

-A 62 year-old woman named Montaha abu Atmeh, sister of Gen. Michel Aoun brother's spouse has been strangled until death by thieves at her house in Mansourieh.

-Armenian and Metn MPs called for a strike today at Dora square to protest against government's reluctance to close Bourj Hammoud waste dump and to press it to carry on the earlier decision to close it on time. The government has earlier fixed 20th July date to close the dump, but there are doubts the decision can be implemented, after the Amrousieh incinerator has been damaged.

-a Greenpeace ship "Sirius" is due to arrive Lebanon's shore on Friday to focus on the country's waste problem and industrial  pollution. The ship will first visit Tripoli port, followed by Jounieh, and next Sidon to spread environmental awareness.

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