-Washington yesterday officially announced that the US secretary of state Mrs. Albright tour in the M.E. will start as of 9th September and will include Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Spokesman of the state department said she will seek to ease the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians, also discuss issues related to the Gulf security, Iran and Iraq. The spokesman said she will see what she and the US can do to treat the crisis of confidence between these two parties that is more serious than the resumption of their talks. The spokesman said she will explore with the parties how to move ahead once again toward a comprehensive peace. He said the purpose of the visit is to try to pull out the peace process from the present situation. He said she is not magician but realistic but she thinks it is the time to make her first tour and speak with the leaders and on their land. He added that Mrs. Albright called on her French, British and Russian counterparts to inform them about her tour and to have their advise and backing in order to push ahead the peace process. He said she did not yet decide about her possible visit to Lebanon.
-France said it is relaxed for the US taking the decision to initiate regenerating the M.E. peace process through this tour. France wished full success for Albright, with whom the French foreign minister is in permanent contact .
-Israel labor party leader Mr. Barak said the coming tour of Mrs. Albright is an opportunity to reach an agreement on an Israeli phased withdrawal from Lebanon. He said the tour is an opportunity that should not be missed to reach an agreement between US and Damascus, "In which Syria extends guarantees that allow an Israeli military withdrawal from south Lebanon". Mr. Barak said with obtaining such Syrian approval the Israeli forces can withdraw on phases from the "security zone" in south Lebanon. Barak proposed the deployment of international forces and Lebanese army in the evacuated areas.
-News reports today said more than ten US delegation are scheduled to come to Lebanon during the coming eight months to enhance bilateral relations and inquire Lebanon's officials views and concepts. Opposition daily claimed that the Americans noticed absence of Lebanon interior and defense ministers from receptions held to the honor of the US delegation including the reception held for senator Kurry, also absence of all ministers loyal to Damascus. They noticed too the insufficient concern given to these delegations by president Elias Hrawi and the foreign minister Fares Boueiz, while the prime minister was courageous to receive these delegations, and to escort senator Kurry to Sidon in his own private car.
-The situation in south Lebanon is once again under spot lights amid the resistance operation against the Israeli elite unit at Wadi Hajir. Lebanon is anticipating an Israel reaction with open possibilities. The resistance attack inflicted four Israeli soldiers killed and six others wounded.
-House speaker Nabih Berri yesterday said the Wadi Hajir operation was not a violation to the April's understanding because it was between resistance men and the occupant army in a remote area. He said he is proud of such sort of operations and "we count always on the resistance". He said the pull out of the Israeli occupying force is inevitable because the resistance will go on with more momentum until the occupation goes out.
-The Israeli military command is giving conflicting reasons and views over the resistance operation and Israeli fatalities. An Israeli officer told news agencies that the Finnish post of the UNIFIL obstruction of Israeli reinforcements to Wadi Hajir delayed its arrival to the battle scene where the Israeli soldiers were caught in fire. The Israeli military spokesman, in a contradicting declaration, said it is impossible to say that the killing of the four Israeli soldiers was due to the delay of the backing force by the Finnish unit. He said Israel is not intending to file a formal complaint. Israel's defense minister on his part called the military command to maintain more caution in order to preserve lives of the soldiers. UNIFIL spokesman in south Lebanon accused the Israeli forces of overrunning a Finnish battalion checkpoint at the village of Qantara. He said the Israeli soldiers did not notify the UN forces that they were coming to rescue their colleagues and no one cared to inform the UNIFIL. The spokesman Mr. Goxyl said "however, those soldiers did not participate afterall in the evacuation of the killed and wounded soldiers, which were carried in different ways". Commander of the Finnish battalion said his unit behaved with good will when it intercepted the incursion of Israeli soldiers of one of its checkpoints in Qantara. The commander Col. Sotarine rejected the Israeli army accusations that said the Finnish battalion is partially responsible of the killing of the four Israeli soldiers in "a fire that was caused by the Israeli forces itself".
-Premier Rafik Hariri shifted from an offensive to change his government to a self defense in an attempt to limit his losses after his setback in the last cabinet meeting when his plan on a $1bn loan and new taxes was dropped down, a local report said. The same report said the plan was not shelved but it is a matter of reviewing the priorities and laying a phased implementation plan.
The report said Hariri is in control of 60 per cent of the decision making, 20 per cent to the house speaker, and the rest to the president and his loyal ministers. The latest recent political developments and the firm stand of the house speaker and his loyal ministers and MPs against the gasoline price rise reflected a strain in the relation with the prime minister. Mr. Hariri did not call the house speaker since days and he has only briefed the president on the outcome of his last visit to Damascus. The house speaker was quoted saying "if the cabinet has endorsed some of the prime minister's plan the people would have been in the street today to protest the new financial burdens". He was quoted saying that the discussions at the cabinet meeting Thursday was a return to life for the council of ministers. However, the acceptance of Mr. Hariri to implement his plan on phases, to review list of priorities and how to increase the state revenues, would keep the plan live. Observers here said the original plan, especially the gasoline price increase and the additional or new taxes and charges, with such ratio and size could reflect negatively on the general situation, and it was better to make it more general but of less burden. The observers ridiculed Hariri saying that collection of the gasoline increase is fast and rapid, arguing what would be the result in case the people decrease gasoline consumption and "perhaps the traffic jam would ease down". Hariri circles said the plan or proposals will be placed at a negotiating table with the country economical and social sectors so that every one bear the responsibility.
-President Elias Hrawi with seven ministers are due to leave Monday in an official visit to Brazil. The visit to Brazil, where a community of about eight million Lebanese origin community, with a high percentage of Zahle immigrants aimed, among many other objectives, to sign a treaty on the extradition of criminals, since Brazil is out of the international treaty and a haven for those people, and to announce in Brazil Lebanon's readiness to grant nationality to immigrants on certain conditions. Hrawi received the departing ambassador of Morocco in a farewell visit. He received members of the constitutional council under the new elected president Amin Nassar in a courtesy visit.
-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz, after receiving ambassadors of the US and the French charge d'affaires, said the two countries are serious enough to ease the tension and reactivate the April's understanding. Boueiz said there is certain coordination between the two states' diplomacy in merit and form. He said the visit of Mrs. Albright is still a principle and address, but even the US ambassador is not informed yet of its details and date. Asked if the two ambassadors called for halting the resistance operations, Boueiz said definitely not, and Lebanon's stand is clear and invariable on the issue. He said France and the US realize that the resistance is a legitimate right and no one can ask Lebanon to halt resistance as long there is no serious and clear Israeli withdrawal. He said Jezzine case is a Lebanese affair and its not in the framework of the ceasefire monitoring committee. He said the ceasefire committee cannot be a substitute to the peace process.
-Patriarch Sfair yesterday received for an hour minister and Jezzine MP Nadim Salem. Salem said the situation in Jezzine at present is tragic and living conditions are the worst, forcing the people to evacuate. He said the patriarch is backing Jezzine with all his potentials and the major effort should be to prevent implantation.
-Muslim Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, in a reaction to the patriarch's remarks without naming, said the present situation in the country requires more solidarity and consolidation of national unity. He said "repelling schemes of Israel is through standing together with Syria to defend our rights and legitimate common interests". Kabbani said "what we have heard recently and from time to time is not serving the cause of Lebanon, neither the cause of liberating south and west Bekaa, nor the unity and rebuilding of the country. We appeal to all without exception to stand for the cause, on the level of the phase, so that Lebanon return back strong and united, to play its natural role to serve the national and Arabic causes, side by side with Syria".
-Minister Walid Jumblat yesterday said some people are gambling on Syrian forces withdrawal and the return to pre Taif agreement "that means return of war and cannon, welcome to war and no objection to that, but peace is preferable". Jumblat stressed the right of the resistance to launch operations from Jezzine, Hasbaya and Merjeuoun. He attacked some intelligence people for trying to stir strife but said "they won't succeed and did not succeed in Cheuifat and Abadieh".
-Akkar Mp Issam Fares said he rejects people to bear burdens of the public administration malpractice. Fares said he rejects the talk on developing rural areas used as camouflage to overshadow new taxes. He assured that return of the displaced to their homes is a right and obligation.
-In the 19th anniversary of Imam Mussa Sadre disappearance, The Muslim Shiite Mufti Abdel Amir Kabalan warned to file a legal suite against Libya at the international court. Kabalan said Libyan leader Qaddafi is responsible of the disappearance and he should clear the fact.
-Muslim senior clerics in their Friday's sermons rejected the recent financial measures proposed by the prime minister. They rejected (patriarch Sfair) equating between resistance and occupation.
-The Maronite bishop of Beirut Boulos Mattar said he felt from his talks with Hariri that the displaced case will be a long case and if there is no solution national unity will be damaged. Bishop Mattar said the public debt is $12bn so why not to let it be $12.3bn, with $250 or 300mn more for the sake of the displaced.
-President of Chikia is to start on 19th Sept. until 29th a M.E. tour that will take him to Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian self rule land. Lebanon is the first station of the tour.
-Lebanon public schools are recovering and marked a remarkable improvement this scholastic year. Results of the official examinations marked an average success of 48 per cent for males in science ex bacc, 56.7 per cent of female students, 56.7 per cent of males in math and 64.8 per cent of females. In philosophy bacc the average was 67 per cent of males and 81.6 of females. Some public secondary schools marked an average success of 100 per cent.
-Three Lebanese army soldiers were kept under arrest until investigations over the shooting of Mohammed Mikdad in Bekaa are completed.
-Six Syrian children went under heart open surgery at a local hospital in Sidon. It is the first step of Syrian Lebanese medical cooperation. Director of the hospital said Lebanon is a pioneer in heart surgeries.
-Lebanon football championship. Nijmeh defeated Homenmen 2-0 at Jamal abdel Nasser stadium in Bekaa. Tadamoun-Tyre defeated Ikhaa Ahli-Aley 3-2 at Safa stadium in Beirut.
-The Kuwaiti Arabi football team arrived to Beirut to play Sunday with Ansar in the 17th Asian first class teams championship.
-Lebanese car racing Nabil Karam won second rank at the Jordanian Tall Rumman car racing held two weeks ago. Karam ranked second despite the mechanical failure of his car Lancia-delta. Karam is hopeful to win first rank at the Course de cote which will be held tomorrow at Ashkout-Lebanon.
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