News from Beirut August 2 1997 ...Search

Army Day- Address of The President

-President Elias Hrawi addressing the nation on the 52nd army day that was celebrated at Fayadieh garrison in presence of top officials and heads of the foreign missions in Lebanon praised the military establishment and said "as long you are far from politics and politicians you become nearer to the entire nation, and as far you release yourself from confessionals and affiliations you build up your citizenship". The president's address centered on local files and equally criticized the opposition on one side and some of the government practices on the other. He said "the country needs heroes of solutions not guards of crisis". He assailed the media reports that figured the country as dead and the people of Lebanon as not worthy of living. He asserted that neither the country nor the people are like that. He elaborated saying "it does not mean we are in prosperity but means that the problems ahead should form an incentive for us to exercise solidarity in order to overcome it". Hrawi said both the opposition and loyalists to the government are moving in a vicious circle, adding that the country needs more than building and reparation, it needs “a root rebuilding and complementation between the private and public sectors". He said it is a right of every citizen to have the opportunity to work both in or out of the state public sector. He also argued how the state could be rebuilt if not all the people stand to clean the public administration from its burdens. Observers say the president did not as usual hint to the boiling regional situation and said the address in its internal local approaches, eight years after Hrawi took the office and five years after designating Rafic Hariri as premier, was an adoption of what Hariri had always reiterated on the local affairs.

- Later in the day, President Hrawi held a meeting with premier Hariri to review issues including the budget deficit, waste of public money, and the situation in the public administration. These files and issues will be on top agenda of the coming meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday next week. The cabinet will also discuss a memo presented by the interior minister Michel Murr asking enforcement of the law against those who call for civil disobedience or revolution. News reports added more files including repercussions of lifting the US travel ban, outcome of the premier's visits abroad, and the law on restructuring the internal security forces ISF. Press reports said president Hrawi made some criticism against premier Hariri's dealing with the case of the ban, but same time noticed the positive impacts of the lifting. President Hrawi urged dispatch of Lebanese delegations to Washington to discuss specific files including the national airliner MEA's flights to the US, especially after modernizing its fleet.


- Lebanese officials said to have received diplomatic reports saying Israel's premier Netanyahu would decide a military blitz against Lebanon and the Palestinian self authority in order to preempt the US diplomatic move that is under discussion. The report said the US state secretary's inquiry on the M.E. region realized that the region is on verge of a military show down. The European Union gave same analysis on the situation. Mrs. Albright decision to dispatch M.E. peace coordinator Dennis Ross to the M.E. was aimed to generate the peace talks. Ross mission was interrupted by the bombing in Jerusalem but its not shelved, and if both the Israeli and Palestinian side show some flexibility, Mrs. Albright would tour the region for the first time. She was quoted telling US ambassadors in the M.E. she won't come for exploration and inquiry but to make tangible results.

- President Elias Hrawi in his address to the nation cautioned that we are before a hard phase. He said "Israel is not anymore able to tolerate burden of its occupation to our land and perhaps it will try to move its fire to our internal unity, in addition to its daily aggressions".

- News reports in Beirut said President Assad's visit to Iran has consolidated the two countries alliance against Israel and the US backing. The timing of the visit was a signal on the extremely dangerous situation in the M.E. The timing was also prior to Iran new president's assuming office and what policies he will adopt namely with Syria. President Assad described Hizbullah as "Lebanese citizens who defend their land where they live, and if Israel walks out the circumstances in Lebanon will improve and Hizbullah will be safe in it's country and land". President Assad said "Hizbullah is a party in itself in Lebanon and what it is doing is done by its own will".

- The Israeli intelligence men summoned days ago the priest of Jezzine Rimon Eid to Merjeuoun barrack inside the occupied security zone and investigated him his repeated calls to people of the town to not join the Israeli backed SLA and to reject the Israeli occupation. The Israeli investigators questioned the Christian cleric and his provocative calls that were hostile to Israel. The Israelis warned the cleric to review his hostile stands and said "let it be known to you and the church that we won't accept another papal envoy in the region whatever it will cost". Father Eid informed Lebanon's senior religious authority and the Vatican was acknowledged of the case.

- Secretary general of the Lebanese world cultural association Joseph Yunis yesterday said granting Lebanese immigrants the right of participating in Lebanon's political life will enhance the link between Lebanese overseas. Yunis said under the present political interventions in Lebanon it is not possible to hold the global conference of the association in Lebanon.

Lifting US Travel Ban, Comments and Repercussions

-Former prime minister Omar Karami yesterday criticized Lebanese officials racing to claim each credit of lifting the ban. Karami said the racing preempted the lift from its core. Karami said the Americans did not hesitate to come to Lebanon when they have interest to come even under the travel ban. He said the attached warning to Americans of coming to Lebanon would limit the large number of those willing to come, and there is still the pending MEA's flights to the US. He said the lift of the ban is purely an American motivated decision and would have not been taken if the US has no such interest.

-Health minister Suleiman Franjieh Jr. during a visit to house speaker's residence at Musseileh near Nabatieh said the lift of the US travel ban was good and its to the interest of the Americans more than the Lebanese .

-North Lebanon MP Issam Fares said Lebanon's president Elias Hrawi, the government, and Lebanese origin lobbyists in Washington namely the Task Force are who persuaded the US administration of reviewing the unfair travel ban. He said the decision to lift the ban, though being taken late, has paved the ground for establishing solid political and economical relation with the US. Fares hailed the courageous decision to visit Lebanon, even under the travel ban, by American officials and politicians, including former president George Bush, senator George Mitchell, The Task Force members, and many others.

-US ambassador in Lebanon Richard Jones, attending the celebration on the army day at Fayadieh, praised the Lebanese army and its achievements. Jones said all the achievements of the army were the one which contributed to persuade the US administration to take the decision to lift the ban. He described the lift of the ban as important but said there should be more steps ahead including encouraging the Americans to invest in Lebanon and other steps.

-Muslim religious clerics on Friday's sermons spoke over lifting the travel ban. Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine said the lift is good but not necessarily a God's blessing. He said if there is no US interest in such a decision they wouldn't do it. Shamseddine said he is not saying the lift is not useful but our country could have lived 20 years more with the ban and nothing will harm. On the relevant cautioning he said "Our country is more safe than the state department". He said the stable security is a major achievement, and when we have social or political or any other demand, there are ordinary channels for that, and all moves in this regard should consider security and institutions as a red line. Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said he is warning the government of responding to the US terms on the lift of the ban, if there are any, especially terms that relate to the mujahideen against the Israeli occupation, also warned if the decision was on the account of the relation between Lebanon and Syria.

Media - Garbage

-Lebanon's audio-visual media stations, namely the religious stations, and the issue of the garbage, are two pressing issues that form sort of fire under ashes. The Muslim Shiite radio station Al Basaer was expected to start broadcasting 1st of August but technical reason delayed the start. Shiite Mufti Abdel Amir Kabalan suggested the establishing of one media institution for all the Lebanese Muslims that could be run under the supervision of sheikh Shamseddine and Kabbani. Information minister Bassem Sabbaa said the idea of one Islamic station is good. He denied any problem on the religious media and said this case is under discussion with the Muslim religious authority. Sabbaa said the Christian religious media's issue has been settled. He denied the government is to deal with the case on the basis of 18 existing sect but on the basis of the existing two religions that have their authority. Sabbaa said the radio stations in north Lebanon which were ordered to close down for not having license have responded to the order except one radio that is run by sheikh Saeed Shaaban. On the garbage, a temporary dump along the airport Maramel road is rejected by the southern suburbs including MP of the region minister Bassem Sabbaa. Sabbaa said he would call for the closure of the dump if the government does not discuss other alternatives. Sheikh Subhi Tufeili argued how the people at Bour Barajneh, Ouzai and the southern suburbs, who live close to the new dump, accepted that and why they do not move same as the people of Amrousieh who earlier burnt down the incinerator in their area.


-House speaker Nabih Berri hosted health minister Suleiman Franjieh, private and public hospitals in south Lebanon. Franjieh said he is in a strategic alliance with the AMAL movement. Mr Berri received the Greek singer Demmis Roussoss and his band.

-Patriarch Sfair yesterday received head of the Brazilian MPs of Lebanese origin Ricardo Azar. The patriarch expressed his deep thanks to the Lebanese community in Brazil for their reception during his visit. MP Azar said some 25,000 Brazilian of Lebanese origin came to Lebanon this summer upon the call of the patriarch to the Lebanese during his visit to Brazil.

-The Dutch ambassador who attended Mar Roukoz meeting on Jezzine said the EU wanted to say to Jezzine people the case is a concern for the union and also to show a sort of solidarity. The ambassador said the EU cannot contribute in ground measures but in finding a solution through the EU peace envoy Mauratinus.

-Minister of administrative reform Beshara Merhej continued his visit to Canada where he met officials and discussed Canada's contribution to development of the public administration in Lebanon.

-NLP party under Douri Chamoun expressed support to the proposal presented by Chuf MP Waddeh Akl on restoring steady permanent revenues for the displaced fund. The party argued until what time the public administration will continue to be subjected to favoritism and stagnation.

-The regional security council in Bekaa after a meeting yesterday under governor of Bekaa is said to have taken secret decisions and measures on the hunger revolution and the calls for civil disobedience. The governor said illegal house constructions in the region were halted. A news article said the government is to face shortly the case of the outnumbered illegal constructions in the region that took place upon a call by sheikh Subhi Tufeili.

-French ambassador in Lebanon yesterday visited the foreign ministry's protocol department to arrange for the visit end of this month to Lebanon by France's foreign minister during his M.E. tour.

-US charge d'affaires in Lebanon Ron Schlicher finally departed Lebanon to join his new post at Washington as head of Egypt and north Africa's desk at the state department. Schlicher is said to have told his Lebanese friends that the MEA's resumption of flights to Washington would be decided next to the lift of the ban, but American airliners flights to Beirut will not be soon because of series of measures that Lebanon has to enforce in prior. He was also quoted saying that the issue of visas to Lebanese at the US consulate at Aukar, will be decided later but under strict conditions and for specific applicants.

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