News from Beirut August 4 1997 ...Search

-Government-Opposition, The Showdown

-The Lebanese government seen determined now to shift its soft policy and to stand for the challenge directed by sheikh Subhi Tufeili. Government measures that are going to be enforced include massing up 4,000 gendarme and 2 brigades of the Lebanese army to intervene in Baalbek-Hermel region to quell violation of law and ensure collection of public services' bills, also to put Tufeili to trial for charges of calling for a revolution and civil disobedience. Some news headlines today said “the zero” hour of the government/opposition confrontation is imminent.

-Interior minister Michel Murr in a radio interview said the state prosecutions will act, the state is the stronger, and putting end to violation of law will be decided shortly at the coming meeting of the government. He was affirmative that the government will enforce the state authority in Baalbek-Hermel. Minister Murr said Tufeili's words went over limit and turned to be a destruction of the state. He said there is no hunger because hungry people do not build 300 houses in the region without any license.

-Over the week-end, Subhi Tufeili at a rally in Baalbek said he decided to form a "council of notables" in the region to supervise the government spending of L.L150bn that was recently allocated to develop the region. The council could be regarded as substitute of the region's elected MPs. Tufeili said he does not trust the government way of spending. He said decisions of the government and the interior minister are not of concern and value in the region and that his "hunger revolution" is going ahead. He said "let the interior minister send his troops because no one can change anything or stand against the revolution".

-Beirut MP and opposition figure Najah Wakim at the same rally went further accusing the prime minister of buying real estates in the security zone occupied by Israel together with Mike Nassar and the Jewish merchant Edmond Safra in the framework of an Israeli scheme. Wakim said Rafik Hariri is "Cohine" of Lebanon, Michel Murr is a "thief", and minister of electricity Elie Hubeika "a thief of electricity cables". Wakim said he himself is preparing the ground for a a civil disobedience move in the entire country. MP Wakim mentioned the Majidiyeh village land that belongs to the Druze clan Arsalan among the land property that were bought by Hariri. Faisal Arsalan denied that their land property at Majidiyeh is for sale.

-Meanwhile, President Elias Hrawi and premier Hariri held further discussions over the week-end aimed to find ways to resolve the socio-economic problems. The state financial and economical situation prompted a different policy that would help collection of the electricity, water, telephone and car mechanic's charges. The new policy to collect the public services fees and charges will be announced after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, together with relevant measures that deal with the economical hardships. President Hrawi and premier Hariri have agreed that the socio-economic issues are of top priority at this stage.

-Fresh report tonight said Beirut prosecutor today decided to prosecute MP Najak Wakim for charges including armed disobedience and insulting the judiciary and the head of state. Wakim is to stand for investigation tomorrow and would face sentence that range between 6 months and 2 years, or interim arrest and deportation out of the country. The judicial authority said there is no need to lift the parliamentary immunity that MP Wakim enjoys because the parliament is not in session at present. The house speaker Nabih Berri said he did not agree to the remarks given by Mr. Wakim but his prosecution is unconstitutional because the decision to prosecute him was taken 24 hours after his remarks were said on Saturday.

-On his part, interior minister Michel Murr at a meeting today of the Metn MPs said the government measures were not aimed against the citizens but aimed against those who are sabotaging the security and salvation drive of the country. He said the government would allow in future some limited gatherings similar to the so called hyde parks.

Premier Hariri- Displaced Issues

-Prime minister Rafik Hariri inaugurating a Greek Orthodox church at Bhamdoun on Damascus highway east of Beirut said the reasons which have delayed the return of the displaced and delivering funds have been eliminated and "its possible now to speed up the return with the earliest possible". Mr. Hariri said when the goals are noble finding out money will be possible". Bishop George Khodr who headed a sermon in the occasion said "we are returning with peace of Christ in ourselves and we extend our hands to all". Bishop Khodr added that the return of the displaced is not a point of politics. He said the return was regarded by the conferees at Taif as one of the country's renovated foundations, and if it has such priority the apprehension that remains is generating the process, and a prerequisite is the financing of the return.

Hizbullah-Jerusalem Bombing

-Hizbullah responsible source in Beirut rejected allegations mentioned by an Israeli security source that accused Hizbullah of launching the two bombings in Jerusalem, after Israel failed to involve some of the Palestinian activists of Hamas in the operation. The Hizbullah source said the Israeli claims are not true and "unfortunately, we did not have the honor of being behind this heroic martyrdom operation".

Lebanon-South Violence- Israeli Commando Raid

-The Islamic resistance fighters and Lebanese army units repelled an Israeli attempted landing dawn of today between 2.00 and 3.00 a.m near the villages of Kfour and Toul in the Nabatieh region. The landing was carried by Israeli elite commandos from the Golani unit who came on board of four Israeli helicopter gunships, under intensive artillery shelling and backing of Israeli warplanes' cover that flew over the area together with reconnaissance planes. The Lebanese army units fired air defenses against the Israeli warplanes from its positions in the region. Evening news today said The Israeli helicopters flew from over an Israeli frigate that was located off Zahrani. The landing troops were from the elite commando force Golani. The Islamic resistance clashed with the raiding force for around two hours. Hizbullah announced martyrdom of five of its fighters in the operation and news reports said 6 civilians were wounded including one in critical condition. The civilian fatalities said to have been inflicted after the Israeli force left behind a bomb that was mocked in form of a rock. The Lebanese army cordoned off the area after the pull out of the commando force to search for more bombs. It is the first Israeli commando raid in eight years in an area deep into Lebanon and out of the occupied security zone. Commander of the Golani force said success of the operation was due to good intelligence information. He said the operation was complicated because it was carried in a populated area. He said some of the Hizbullah men who were "killed" were involved in an operation in the security zone two years ago that led to the killing of 9 Israeli soldiers. Hizbullah said its fighters seized the raiding force forcing it out after inflicting casualties among them. The party official in south said his party's retaliation will be severe and painful. The Israeli operation came hours after a meeting of the Israeli cabinet that discussed the situation in south. Israeli officials considered president Assad's visit to Tehran that has developed the bilateral relation a danger on Israel.

-Fresh news today said hours after the Israeli attack against the Kfour village in the Nabatieh region out of the Israeli occupied security zone, Lebanon prime minister and house speaker went to the summer resort's residence of Bloudan in Syria to have consultations with Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. The two Lebanese senior officials regarded today's attack as a part of an undeclared war launched by Israel and an Israeli new attitude. President Elias Hrawi was quoted telling the tourism minister Talal Arsalan during his visit that the situation in south Lebanon is becoming serious especially under the present situation in the M.E. Hrawi was also quoted saying that the internal files in Lebanon have retreated to give priority to the situation in south Lebanon. The presidential palace sources denied any plans at present to hold a summit with Syria, or a meeting of the supreme council, or a visit by a Syrian envoy to Beirut. The situation in south Lebanon urged a meeting today for an hour and half between premier Hariri and the foreign minister Fares Boueiz. Their meeting was the first in several months and after harsh critics that were declared by the foreign minister. Mr. Boueiz said the Lebanese government is studying the Israeli aggression of today with its given elements, in order to see to a formal complaint at the UN security council. Boueiz said the Israeli attack today was against the resistance but out of the security zone.

-On other hand, the SLA was reported to have started clearing the road between Anan and Kfar Falous in east Sidon removing its land barricades. An SLA bulldozer was working on the site on Saturday.

US Travel Ban, More On The Issue

-US ambassador Richard Jones after a meeting with the agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury said the restrictions by his administration on the passports are under the authority of the state department, but other restrictions including landing at Beirut of American planes, or Lebanon's MEA flights to the US, are the authority of other administration that is the transport department which Mrs. Albright cannot take decision on its behalf.

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said today he wished the lift of the US travel ban included the air flights between the two countries and was complete.

-Michigan senator Spenser Ibraham, of a Lebanese origin, is said to be working on the resumption of air flights between Lebanon and the US with other Lebanese lobbyists.


-Patriarch Sfair speaking Saturday to a French delegation questioned why Lebanon's land and border are uncontrolled while other's land enjoy peace and calm. He cited serious problems that are facing Lebanon including the Israeli occupation, the hundred thousands of Palestinians who are still in the country, the economical hardships, the presence of 40,000 Syrian troops, lack of democracy and political life, the displaced issue, and the rise of the average of immigration out of the country. He said only 20 per cent out of the half million displaced have already returned back to their homes, while half a million more have migrated..

-Lebanon foreign minister Fares Boueiz speaking to a church conference on Lebanese overseas said the Lebanese immigrants should be granted the basical right and the basical link with the homeland through returning their Lebanese nationality. Boueiz said what he meant is not to distribute a quantity of passports and identities allover the world, that will be shelved in libraries or not exercised, but to start with returning nationality to all those of Lebanese blood, that is who has a Lebanese father or mother, and then lay down some other terms additional to the blood link. He said these terms could include speaking Lebanese language, entering a Lebanese school or university in or out of Lebanon, to have visited Lebanon at least for one time, so who fulfills these terms deserves being granted the Lebanese nationality. Boueiz said consequently the second right is to grant the immigrant the right of election.

-UNIFIL in south Lebanon decided to dismiss 27 Lebanese working as permanent employees and 125 others working on contract. The UNIFIL measure is said to be instructed by the UN H.Q. in a bid to squeeze expenditures.

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