News from Beirut August 1 1997 ...Search

US Travel Ban, Any Package Behind Lifting?

-A leading opposition daily today questioned if prime minister Hariri has made a package deal with Washington on lifting the travel ban without knowledge of the president, speaker, government and all other officials. US state secretary Albright has revealed that that Mr.. Hariri pledged to sign a treaty on hostage taking, something Israel refused to sign so far. The treaty gives the US the right to extradite and detain wanted people in accordance to US courts rulings, and consequently the right of putting to trial out of Lebanon and in the US any suspected Lebanese citizen, since Beirut has to pledge to hand over any Lebanese wanted in Washington.

-Amid the circulation of the package in Beirut, Lebanon parliament's foreign relation committee suspended ratification of the treaty until the prime minister stands before parliament and gives clarifications. The committee was angered of Hariri assertion to Albright that the treaty will be ratified regardless of the parliament's say and before discussing it at the parliament. MP Zaher el Khatib argued if the treaty has been consulted with other parties namely Syria. The postponement of ratification by the committee was unanimously approved by all the committee members. The parliament will reconvene after the summer recess on the first Tuesday next to mid October.

-Despite the relax that followed lift of the ban and its positive impacts on economy, world trust in Lebanon, tourism and investment in the country, Lebanese officials were reported disagreed. President Elias Hrawi denied his knowledge of any pledges given to Mrs. Albright to combat terrorism. Albright has said premier Hariri, on behalf of the government, pledged to sign at earliest the treaty on hostage taking, and pledged to continue his commitment on international agreements relevant to terrorism and crime.

Foreign minister Fares Boueiz demanded urgent clarification on why the lifting of the ban did not include the US restrictions on visas to Lebanese and MEA flights. Mr. Hariri dispatched Ghassan Taher, his adviser on civil aviation affairs, to Washington without counseling the security officials and the government, recalled that his visit aimed to respond to Albright's security questions.

-Former ambassador Farouk abi Lamaa said eventhough lifting the ban is a national victory it is feared that Israel may architect security incidents in order to undermine stability of the country as usual . Abi Lamaa accused Israel of any future security incident that might occur because it is the beneficent. He said Israel may seek the collaboration of Lebanese  and non Lebanese, Arab or non Arab agents to strike at Lebanon.

South Lebanon-Jerusalem Bombing

-Reports from south of Lebanon said the Israeli forces are now reshuffling its units in the south also units of its backed militia the SLA. Israeli reinforcements were dispatched to what Israel considers strategic outposts. It is not definite yet whether the move has any connection with the bombing in Jerusalem.

-No news on the reopening of Kfar Falous crossing which Lebanon's government decided to reopen a month ago and before the army day today. The Lebanese army units cleared the crossings vicinity of land mines and unexploded bombs under severe conditions while the SLA militia set series of conditions.

-On verge of the 1st August, SLA commander Antoine Lahd said the case of   areas under his control is a regional and international one and "cannot be resolved by the rulers who speak in Beirut". He said the efforts of the SLA men will not go futile and those men will remain steady at their place until a solution of the region is reached, adding that the solution will not be against the interest of the border area's people. Lahd claimed that taking on Jezzine won't be easy because it is responsibility of his forces. Lahd said the other party started to understand that point and fact and Hizbullah has realized it will not succeed in Jezzine and cannot do anything there. He interpreted Hizbullah's operations against his militia in Jezzine saying "it is a signal on Hizbullah failure to carry on successful operations in other parts of the south". He concluded saying the SLA will remain in the security zone to maintain security.

-Israeli artillery shelling on the southern village Barachit targeted a civilian house where a Lebanese family narrowly escaped death. The new shelling is another violation of the ceasefire's understanding. The Islamic resistance attacked two SLA outposts at kassir and Beit Yahoun.

Army Day

-In the occasion of the army 52nd day on 1st August a military parade took place this morning at Fayadieh barrack in presence of the three top officials. Celebrating the occasion was observed in all Lebanon. Prime minister Hariri who did not attend the occasion since years is present today at Fayadieh. Celebrations are observed at all the army garrisons in all Lebanon. Merger of the army brigades and the national military service were both steps aimed to consolidate the internal unity of the country.

-Commander of the army Gen. Emile Lahoud in the order of the day said the army assured the nation it is worthy of the public trust that it has earned. He said the Israeli enemy has ignored all international resolutions and continues to occupy a cherished part of the national land also expanded its zone of operations to reach innocent civilians. Gen. Lahoud said "the enemy continues to produce questionable plans that seek to isolate Lebanon and destabilize the internal order through the attempts of its agents to create a negotiating statue. Your command will refuse to accept any negotiating conditions from the enemy and its agents. The enemy continues to present formats that camouflage its real intention of separating the Syrian and Lebanese peace tracks. These maneuvers will only result in further coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies in the interest of both nations. Internally, with the assistance of the Arab Syrian forces you have maintained order and guaranteed the public's right of peace and security. On several political, social and religious occasions, you have assisted the ISF, the general security and state security to maintain a degree of order that earned the admiration and trust of the public and the government, and projected a civilized image of your country. The first cornerstone in building the military has been respecting and following the law of the land from which you derive your authority. The law defines your responsibilities and your relations with the government and the public".

Japanese Red Army Five

-Beirut criminal court sentence of three years in prison on five Japanese Red Army members convicted of using forged documents and illegally residing in Lebanon would be appealed within 15 days, defense attorney of the five said. The sentence ordered the five to be expelled from the country once they complete their prison sentence. Omaya Abboud, a Lebanese woman accused of illegally practicing medicine was found innocent of the charge.

Media Law-Defying the Ban

-The two Muslim senior clerics Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine and Mohammed Rashid Kabbani told yesterday the prime minister they will ignore the government ban and their religious radio stations will continue to broadcast. Mufti Kabbani, after a 20-minute meeting with premier Hariri at Dar el Fatwa, said his position is clear and the Koran Karim radio station, which was not granted license, will continue to broadcast. Another Muslim Shiite radio station Al Basaer will broadcast soon and be run by the Muslim Shiite High Council under Shamseddine. Outcome of Hariri visit to Shamseddine was not disclosed. Minister of information Bassem Sabbaa tried  in an earlier visit to the two senior clerics, to persuade them of the ban, was a failure, for that the prime minister visited yesterday the two to try again. The Christian Sawt al Mahabba called on the Muslim religious authorities to abide by the cabinet's decision and establish one Muslim radio station, as the Christian religious authority have done. The stations that continued to broadcast, defying the ban, were the ones that were denied licenses, including four in Bekaa, six in north, 13 in south, and 2 T.V stations. Even the stations that were granted licenses have begun to use the frequencies of the denied licenses stations.

-There are questions in Beirut predicting that the media file will be reopened again amid the confessional and sectarian row. Lebanon's 18 sect perhaps want a station for each. The audio-visual media stations follow-up committee warned it will give the cabinet a time limit until 15th Oct. to review the entire case or otherwise it will resume broadcasting and appeal to the state shura council to annul the government decision on media.

Meanwhile, information minister Bassem Sabbaa asked the interior ministry to enforce the cabinet decision. Employees of the stations that were not granted licenses and who are now jobless threatened to meet Monday and stage protests. The Islamic groups in north Lebanon staged a sit in protest at Mansouri mosque demanding licenses to their stations. Leader of the unification movement sheikh Saeed Shaaban said the government is confiscating freedoms.


-Premier Hariri is to participate in the ceremony to lay down cornerstone of the Orthodox church at Bhamdoun on Sunday. He yesterday discussed issues related to traffic and mechanic charge, labor and housing with concerned ministers.

-Brazil's house speaker Michel Tamer's visit to Lebanon was cut in surprise yesterday without any notice. Mr. Tamer cut his visit and left back home via Paris. The visit was scheduled to go on until Saturday. Deputy speaker Elie Firzli was at the farewell at the airport. A sudden health set back was given as reason of the sudden departure. Some news reports predicted there might be a protocol rift or a political error.

-Patriarch Sfair told yesterday his visitors that implementing the apostolic exhortation requires change of mentality especially the Christian mentality and to avoid anything that is not vice. He said the exhortation is now available in Arabic as of today and should be read carefully.

-Opposition MP Najah Wakim said Lebanon is on the verge of an Israeli blitz that might take place and the country should be ready. Wakim said the country is on the verge of a catastrophe and Israel plans to strike deep in Lebanon and cut the Beirut Damascus highway. Wakim said the region is on the verge of another June, and presidents Mohbarak and Assad's meeting affirmed they have touched something like that, since the US is preparing a peace conference according to its concepts, and the two presidents Mobarak and Assad are warning of a major blow in the region starting from Lebanon.

-The five nation ceasefire monitoring committee after a 19 hours meeting at Naqoura called on all the concerned parties to accurately abide by the ceasefire's understanding. It reminded the combatants of their responsibility of the way they fire and that they should look into its consequences. The panel called on all the concerned authorities to take more precautions and ensure that the populated areas should not be targeted to deliberate or non deliberate attacks nor to be used as spearheads. The Israeli side claimed that its artillery shelling at Habbouche village Monday was a result of defensive counter-fire in response to an attack by a Lebanese armed group.

-The Maronite League after a weekly meeting attended by Maronite bishop Boulos Mattar said the Jezzine area has a certain privacy not because of the the Majority Christians there but because of its common living that symbolizes Lebanon's unity . The league's statement said any danger that threatens Jezzine will threaten the entire common living formula in the country.

-The Arabic copy of the apostolic exhortation was yesterday presented at the the Catholic information center in Jal Eddib. The 199 page translation from French is now available in Arabic. 50,000 copy were already printed.

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