News from Beirut August 14 1997 ...Search

SLA Pull Back From Saidoun, A Puzzle

-The SLA recent pull back at Saidoun area with 7 kms depth is a puzzle and a mystery. The Lebanese council of ministers had decided at an earlier session to open the Kfarfalous crossing and ordered the army to enforce the measure that would have brought Jezzine area into the country and shortened the road to Sidon. The decision is still pending and hanged in the air. The commander of the Israeli backed militia SLA Antoine Lahd tried to impose terms that the government here rejected. The Lebanese state officials were optimistic that the crossing will be reopened to traffic but their optimism was for unknown reasons. The house speaker even told his visitors that the crossing will reopen before the army day on first August.

-The question now is whether the pull back from Saidoun is a start of an entire total withdrawal from all the Jezzine region and an SLA retreat to the Litani river course. The second question is whether the pull back aimed at causing a confessional strife between Hizbullah and the Christians in Jezzine, recalled that contacts were underway with various parties to avert entering the area except for units of the Lebanese army. The third question is whether the SLA commander has any plan to open another crossing not Kfar Falous in particular, such as the crossing from Haidab-Saidoun and perhaps down to Sidon.

-President Elias Hrawi told his visitors that the government will not take a decision now to send the army to the area where Israel and SLA evacuated recently, and said it instead exercises a cautious stand because the pull back would be a trap to Lebanon. He said the government is waiting reaction of the other side and if it proved to be of good will and the Lebanese army will not be posed to an ambush then the army will deploy in the area where Israel and the SLA evacuated. He assured that no Lebanese party has any interest to provoke any problem in the area. He said all the parties in the country show endeavor to allow the people there to live in peace and tranquillity, to notice the advantage of being affiliated again to their country. President Hrawi said Lebanon refuses to pay anything for any Israeli withdrawal and considered any Israeli withdrawal a gain to Lebanon.

-The house speaker Nabih Berri said he asked the Lebanese army to explore the area in order to confirm whether the pull back is a final withdrawal or a redeployment, so that the Lebanese army could be deployed there.

-Prime minister Rafik Hariri speaking at the cabinet meeting said Lebanon rejected the Israeli pretexts that were used to justify its aggressions against the Lebanese civilians. He said the news on withdrawal from Jezzine were not final and the concerned authorities are watching closely the situation. Hariri noticed that the consecutive meetings that were held during the past days in framework of the ceasefire monitoring panel has ended with condemning Israel's actions against Lebanese civilian areas. He said there was total solidarity between the Lebanese and Syrian delegations at the committee meeting and that has led to the condemnation of Israel.

-The Lebanese government sources said the government in watching the situation in Jezzine region is studying three issues. The first is the scale of the withdrawal that is the geographical area, the second is the confirmation of the withdrawal and what will be its consequences, and the third is that the army is studying its possible deployment in practical technical terms. The sources said if the withdrawal is worthy in geographical terms and it is definitely a total one the army would discuss its deployment, and if the deployment of the army would pose it to a serious danger, from military technical viewpoint, then it is better to send security forces from Jezzine itself, and that would avert the army being trapped or seized .

-News reports said the SLA pull back could be merely a redeployment that aimed to avert more human casualties and/or to have more strategic military control of the villages evacuated recently but at the same time keeping it under the range of the SLA fire power.

-The fourth meeting of Mar Roukoz for Jezzine yesterday expressed fear of the withdrawals in the region and called the Lebanese army to take over the security mission. The German ambassador who attended the meeting said his country is in sympathy with the humanitarian side of the Jezzine case.

Bekaa's Security Dragnet

-The Lebanese army yesterday continued to patrol north Bekaa without any significant development. An army unit said to have been stationed at the vicinity of the Roman temple. The Lebanese cabinet under premier Hariri reviewed the situation and the prime minister said the security and judicial measures were consecutively enforced. He valued the efforts and role of the Lebanese army, ISF, general security, state security and the judicial authority ,which carry on the mission and halt any form of chaos. News reports said the cabinet refused a proposal that suggested to deploy army checkpoints off mosques and churches in the region, in order to avert misinterpretation of the move.

The Ceasefire Monitoring Panel

-After four days of fiery debates and 71 hours of consecutive discussions the cease fire monitoring committee was able to issue its final statement. The condemnation of Israel, for its military actions against Joun and Libbaya, and its condemnation of the Katyusha rocketing of Kiryat Shimone in north Israel by an "armed group", were a sort of balance that helped the committee issue its statement. The delayed statement was due to the insistence of Lebanon that refused equal condemnation.

The Cabinet Meeting

-The cabinet meeting under prime minister Hariri yesterday discussed an agenda of 25 different topics. The two topics out of the agenda were the situation in south Lebanon and the condemnation of Israel by the monitoring panel. Premier Hariri noticed that the solidarity between the Lebanese and Syrian delegations at the meeting of the panel produced a condemnation of Israel and its actions. The cabinet discussed range of topics including projects in the rural areas, demands of the municipalities labors, and the official examinations which was decided to be on two sessions one in June and another in autumn.

-Prime minister Hariri announced that an extra session of the parliament will be held and continues until 15th Oct. which is the opening of the ordinary session. He said a decree on the extra session will be issued today. What topics will be debated at the extra session is to be seen. One of the major results of the extra session will be the halt of judicial procedures against MP Najah Wakim, who will then enjoy his immunity as an MP. The lawyers bar said it is not the authority to lift or fix an immunity and it is only involved when the case deals with the lawyer's profession. The bar said this was not the case of Mp Wakim who was not practicing the profession. MP Wakim said the demand to lift his immunity has ignored the parliament and was directly sent to the lawyers bar.


-Former minister and the present head of the Maronite league Pierre Helou after a visit to Patriarch Sfair said the head of the state in Lebanon, though Maronite, but he is for all the Lebanese and not a head of a community. He said the league is following up the case of naturalization and the legal suit to annul the former naturalizations. He said among the concerns of the league is the case of Jezzine and the displaced. Asked on the pardon of Dr. Samir Geagea, the reunion of the Maronite community and meeting with the opposition in Paris, Helou said the league continues to tackle these issues but it has been only one month since the league executive council's elections.

-14 Mp appealed to the constitutional council against the government decision to extend term in office of the municipal and mayoral councils. The appeal said the government has confiscated the right of citizens to run their local affairs by themselves. The appeal came parallel to a national petition on the elections which planned to have one million signature.

-First lady Mona Hrawi and many other ministers and MPs extended condolence to MP Jubran Towk on the decease of his brother Elias, father of Streda Geagea and the spouse of Dr. Samir Geagea.

-Druze acting sheikh Akl Bahjat Ghaith said the practice of the government made him feel shameful. He said the audio-visual licenses were granted to influencials inside the communities.

-President Hrawi is to inaugurate today the traditional historical Kadri hotel in Zahle after renovation. The hotel is one of Zahle's major touristic sites.

-MP Bahiya Hariri inaugurated the national committee for the public school which aimed to support the public school in Lebanon. Statistics said over 30 per cent of Lebanon's students have enrolled in the public schools.

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