News from Beirut August 11 1997 ...Search

South Lebanon's Tension

-The five nations ceasefire monitoring committee meeting on Sunday at Naqoura was expected to examine accumulating 12 complaints filed by both Lebanon and Israel. The committee's meeting was interrupted by the crash of an Italian helicopter and the consequent suspension of UNIFIL helicopter's airlift to Lebanese and Syrian delegations who refused to go to Naqoura by land. Until morning today the committee did not finish its debate. Two heads of the Lebanese and Syrian delegations extended at Naqoura their condolence to commander of the UNIFIL on the death of the helicopter's crewmen.

-The Islamic resistance launched over the weekend series of attacks against the Israeli and SLA's outposts including Mlikh in the middle sector, where one Israeli soldier reported killed and three others wounded. The resistance said it attacked the enemy's outposts at Salha and Kfarhoune. A child was reported wounded Sunday when an artillery shell struck a housing compound run by the S.O.S organization at Sfaray near Jezzine. The SLA accused what it called the terrorists of responsibility of the incident. Hizbullah on its side said targeting the civilians inside the occupied land is becoming part of the Israeli scheme that aimed to stir internal troubles. The S.O.S announced it will evacuate the children from Sfaray to Bharsaf in Metn.

The Local Concerns

-Prime minister Rafik Hariri Sunday held three hours talks in Damascus with president Hafez Assad. He met upon his arrival the Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. The present tension in south Lebanon, US envoy's diplomacy in the region, and cooperation between two countries under the present circumstances were main topics of discussion. News dispatches said Syria is watching closely the current development in the region and monitor the political scene in view of the tour of US peace coordinator Dennis Ross. The Syrian capital is following up Ross' efforts to concile Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints and how the contacts between the two sides would resume. Hariri said before departing Damascus that both the Lebanese and Syrian stands are firm and solid and stressed the two countries right to return their occupied land in the Golan and south Lebanon. He said Lebanon will not cede any inch . He excluded war in the region and said the ceasefire monitoring committee is capable to halt any escalation.

-Muslim Shiite civic and religious leaders especially the house speaker Nabih Berri and head of the Muslim Shiite high council sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamsedine said they have received phone calls from president Hrawi who cleared what paper reports said remarks given by him that hinted against the Shiites of the country. The presidential palace said president Hrawi has stated that the national affairs are something and the outlaw people and the stand against them is something else. President Hrawi said he did direct the Shiites as a community but directed his critic against those calling for disobedience and who do not abide by law and threaten the security in the country. House speaker Nabih Berri's circles said he did not want to involve himself in the debate at the last government meeting, but he was quoted dismayed of the atmosphere during the meeting and the decisions that were taken. Mr.. Berri's circles said the cabinet could have averted such turmoil and merely enforced the law instead. Mr. Berri is to outline his stand and view on Tuesday during his meeting with the immigrant youths.

-The presidential palace said one of the ministers have leaked the details of the cabinet meeting and quoted the president saying what he won't say. The presidential circles said the president is too far from any confessional stand and he could not have directed the Shiite community and that is something definitely not in his dictionary. President Hrawi was reported to be determined to enforce the latest decisions that maintain the state image and avert creation of mini states within state, also to prosecute those calling for civil disobedience and whatever threatens the state security. He also said that prior to the security measures that will be carried by the army and ISF the prosecution should move on by itself if any criminal action occur. In another press report, an envoy of president Hrawi visited Hizbullah secretary general to discuss the circulated news on the president's remarks hinting at the Shiite community.

-House speaker Nabih Berri speaking Sunday to tobacco cultivators in south Lebanon said Israel won't launch a large scale blitz because it won't be of good use to it. He said the Israeli attacks from Sunday through Tuesday could have been a bullet of mercy at the ceasefire's understanding, and that's what Israel wanted to say before the US envoys arrive and that's the reason of the current blow up. He said Israel wanted to figure out the situation in the region as a security one, and some of those playing games in the Israeli sphere have started to tell where the katyusha rockets came from. He was referring to Yasser Arafat. Berri said the reason of doing so is to tell the Americans "peace for security". Mr. Berri criticized the privatization projects, saying that the tobacco industry administration is the national ideal and immuned institution and a symbol of the state non privatized institutions.

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili, four days since the cabinet decided series of security and judicial measures and three days since the central security council meeting to put into effect cabinet decisions, said at a rally in Brital in Baalbek he will give the government a timelimit until 13th September to think over and after that the options are open to his hunger revolution. He said the postponement is not a retreat but to postpone taking escalatory measures on his side was under the wish of some Ulema and friends. He said the preparations for the fourth phase of the revolution are underway and the decisions were already taken. He said if the government makes any mistake he will reconsider the postponement. Tufeili criticized the council of ministers, the ministers, and the talk on highest levels against a community. He described the prime minister same as Khalil Shaaban, who runaway with money of the people, "but Hariri is on the level of Lebanon". Chuf MP Zaher el Khatib, who attended the rally, said what is going on in the shadow of Hariri government is a disobedience against constitution, a rebellion against law and a threat to the society's peace. Khatib argued what does it mean now with the lift of the US travel ban to deploy army in the southern suburbs and Bekaa, putting it in an embarrassing position. Khatib did cast doubts over some visits by the prime minister especially to France and his meeting with president Chirac after Israel proposed the "Lebanon's First", and his visit to Morocco and his meeting with King Hassan, who is Israel's godfather. He assailed the parliament majority and blame it for the government's policy which put the country at the brink.

-Druze prominent leader minister Walid Jumblat in a significant unprecedented move visited Sunday residence of the community acting sheikh Akl Bahjat Ghaith following three years of severed relation. Jumblat after a half an hour meeting said the visit is social but issues that relate to the Druze community remained pending. He said he is with anything that preserves dignity of sheikh Bahjat Ghaith " that is in agreement with a great friend in Syria". He emphasized on electing a sheikh Akl by various sectors of the community. Jumblat said splitting the Druze as a cheese into two halves is over. Sheikh Ghaith said the visit was a commitment that was carried by Mr. Jumblat. He said it was a courtesy visit and they discussed wide range of issues ,"but we understood that things are complicated ". He said he understood that Mr. Jumblat wants a sort of law which runs the community affair and institutions, but that law is not yet agreed. He said what is needed is a consensus among the community activists, Mps and intellectuals on one attitude. He said the visit is a courageous initiative from Mr. Jumblat and wished it is a prelude for further visits, in order to modernize the community laws on the sheikh el Akl, the community religious council and Awkaf.


-Hizbullah shura council's member Mohammed Yazbek at the funeral of the Israeli raid at Junta in Baalbek said his party is not the one that fires a rocket and hide afterward. He accused Yasser Arafat of being behind the last Katyusha rocketing against north Israel "because what Arafat said assured he is the one behind the rocketing".

-Akkar MP Wagih Baarini called for neutralizing the army from the political splits and for extending all support to the military establishment.

-Batroun Mp Boutros Harb said he is stick to push the government ahead to hold the municipal elections at the earliest.

-Metn MP Nassib Lahoud said the oppressive measures will aggravate problems and make solutions more difficult. He criticized the government clamp down on the peaceful civilized national campaign to sign a petition on municipal elections and the measure against artists this time directed against a tape by Osama Rahbani.

-Funeral of Elias Towk at Becharri, father of the spouse of Samir Geagea, turned into a rally for the former Lebanese forces. Former leaders of the dissolved party also supporters and former members rallied to share Streda Geagea her father's loss.

- A commemoration of late Camille Chamoun and his spouse Zalfa was held Saturday at Deir el Qamar in presence of Douri Chamoun, representative of the army commander, MP George Deeb Niemeh and residents of the town.

-Ministers of tourism and education inaugurated the first camp of the Lebanese Immigrant youths at Jbeil. 350 young boys and girls came from over 20 different countries in America, Europe, Australia, Africa and the Arab world.

-Beirut's Maronite bishop Bouls Mattar inaugurated the rebuilding of Maronite church in Bhamdoun. He appealed to the Lebanese senior officials to speed up the return of all the displaced.

-Precautionary measures are still enforced for the third consecutive day at the hills of Baalbek's towns and villages in order to avert an Israeli landing.

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