News from Beirut September 12  1997 ...Search

Israeli raids kill six Lebanese soldiers

Four Israeli air raids targeting Lebanese army positions in Arabsalim at 11:00 p.m. this evening, killed 6 Lebanese soldiers and wounded three others, in addition to injuring one civilian and destroying to army armored personnel carriers, security sources in South Lebanon said.

Earlier the same evening, and at almost the same time the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her visit to Syria, heavy clashes between guerrilla fighters and Israel forces took place in Jabal Al Rafie. The clashes were accompanied by intensive Israeli shelling of the Iqlim Attufah area, especially the villages Sojod, Rihan, Arabsalim and the vicinities of Habbouch.

Later at 10:00 p.m., intensive clashes between guerrilla fighters and an Israeli unit manning the Sojod post occurred. Hizbullah in a statement later affirmed the clashes and said a group of its fighters has shelled an Israeli patrol in the outskirts of Arabsalim, killing or wounding a number of its elements. Security sources later said an Israeli helicopter landed in the confrontation area, and evacuated four casualties. Meanwhile, contacts between a Hizbullah operating room and four resistance fighters were said to have been lost following an Israeli heavy shelling of the area, a Hizbullah statement said.

An Israeli Radio broadcast later announced that four Hizbullah fighters were today killed during the confrontations that took place in the eastern sector of the security zone.

Against all odds, Lebanon still hopeful Albright would come. The visit by the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Damascus today raised speculations in Beirut on whether Lebanon will be her next stop.

House Speaker Nabih Berri in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday said he is sure Albright will be visiting Lebanon. On the other hand, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Paris yesterday said Mrs. Albright did not ask to come to Lebanon. In a later call, he also denied having any information on the subject, neither did the US Ambassador, he said.

Sources close to Speaker Berri later explained that Albright's visit is expected on the grounds that south Lebanon has become a key player in the area. President Elias Hrawi, who returned to Lebanon on Thursday from a 10-day official visit to Brazil, is now the key official following up the news of the visit. A minister accompanying Hrawi said during the past 24 hours, there was no news about visit.

In contrast to the denials in Beirut, arrangements in Zahle at Hrawi's residence signaled that the meeting with Albright could take place there. Other speculations, however, said the arrangements might be in the framework of a poem festival which Hrawi will be attending.

Press reports also said France has asked Albright to visit Lebanon. But the final decision will depend on whether the talks Albright will have this afternoon with President will necessitate such a visit.

France says Netanyahu's policies are "catastrophic"

Most newspapers today highlighted a statement made yesterday by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vidrine describing Netanyahu's policies as "catastrophic".

Vidrine, during a socialist party conference held in southern France, attacked the Israeli government yesterday and said the peace process has been broken by Netanyahu's policies. He said it is a catastrophic policy now and in the future for Israel, the Palestinians and the whole region.

Reacting, Israel's Foreign Minister David Levy expressed in a statement distributed in Paris today, his country's "profound surprise" at the remark. He said Vidrine's comments were not only one-sided, but also surprising, both as to its contents and coincidence with the peacemaking visit of the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Israel not serious about unilateral withdrawal, Hariri says

Prime Minister Hariri yesterday reiterated his conviction that peace in the Middle East is possible in three months if Israel agrees to resume negotiations on the basis of the land-for-peace formula.

Speaking after a three-hour meeting with President Chirac, Hariri said President Chirac has assured him that the French policy towards Lebanon and the Middle East has not changed a bit after Lionel Jospin's socialist government assumed power.

He also told reporters that Israel is not serious about the unilateral withdrawal bid. He said talks about withdrawal turns intensive in Israel every time a major military debacle in Lebanon occurs.

News Briefs

-Egyptian news agency MENA said two Israeli soldiers were killed and 6 others wounded when their truck collided near an Israeli army post along the border with Lebanon. MENA quoted the Israeli radio as saying rescue teams rushed to the place to evacuate the wounded to hospitals.

-Batroun Deputy Boutros Harb said the government's policy is haphazardly and lacks planning. He said the $1bn plan aims at stepping over the constitution, and ignoring the parliament's role of supervision.

-Matn Deputy Nassib Lahoud in a press conference today said the $1bn plan "is by itself a masked supplement of the original budget" and a prove that the basic budget was "fictitious and fragmented." Lahoud also presented a lengthy economic study in which he concluded that "the government is not qualified to run the country's financial affairs".

-On the eve of September 13, the deadline Subhi Tufaili set for resuming his "hunger revolution", he said in a statement today nothing the government could do now would make him halt his move.

-Physicians, lawyers and engineers loyal to General Michel Aoun in an open letter to the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed the wish she would not exclude Lebanon from the peace talks, and consider it a full partner in the peace process.

-General Michel Aoun's "Gathering for Lebanon" in France, on the occasion of Prime Minister Hariri's visit, sent letters to President Jack Chirac, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and other French high officials urging them to review with courage the French policy toward Lebanon. The Gathering noted that as a result of the government's policies, budget deficit in 1997 reached 63 per cent, and public debts increased from $1,700m in 1992 to $15,900m in 1997.

-Lebanon's Constitutional Council upon a challenge presented by 14 deputies today annulled a decision to extend the mandate of municipal and mayoral councils until the year 1999. The council's ruling will be published tomorrow. Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss said the council's ruling is historic and enhances democracy. Batroun MP Butros Harb said the ruling is a decoration for the Council.

-Lebanon's Finance Ministry announced today a $400m eurobond issue that was earlier authorized by the parliament.

-Governors of Arab central banks are to hold their first ever conference in Lebanon at Brumana as of tomorrow.

-The Maronite League said Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's proposal of making Lebanon one electoral constituency is harmful to the country's formula of mutual coexistence and would stir up strife. The league said such proposal would turn Lebanon into a one-party-one-man system, contradictory to democracy. The League also said it is a natural right of every Lebanese expatriate to regain the Lebanese nationality, and no one can defy that right.

-Amal Movement Deputy Ali Khalil, a representative of the Islamic Shiite Higher council and the Lebanese Ambassador to Germany yesterday held a meeting in Bonn with the head of the German Foreign Ministry's Middle East Department. Discussions centered on the German decision to deport thousands of Lebanese. The Lebanese delegation asked the German government to postpone the deportation until the situation in south Lebanon improves, especially since most of these are from south Lebanon's occupied territories.

-Information Minister Bassem Sabbaa expressed his dismay over the chaotic increase of sectarian audio-visual radio stations, and reiterated his demand to the Ministry of Interior to force illegal stations to stop broadcasting.

-The delegation headed by the Prime Minister of Australia's New South Wales District visited north Lebanon yesterday. The delegation is scheduled today to visit President Hrawi and Patriarch Sfeir. They yesterday visited the Cedars and Jubran's museum.

-A meeting between Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and the Jezzine Mar Roukoz Gathering urged the inhabitants of the occupied areas, especially Jezzine, to return back to their homes and villages.

-Military Court Magistrate Nasri Lahoud charged 20 persons, including 13 in absentia, of blowing up alcohol shops in Sidon. Those under arrest admitted they are affiliated to Abdul Karim El Saadi, Alias Abu Mohjen, who was sentenced to death by a Lebanese court for murdering late President of the Islamic Welfare Projects Association (Al Ahbash) Sheikh Nizar Halabi.

-ESCWA Executive Secretary General Hazem Biblawi and 400 staff members are to move next month to the Agency's newly built head office in Beirut. The decision to move to Beirut was taken in 1994 at the 16th session of ESCWA ministerial committee.


-Head of FIFA's international committee Dr Khuan du Havelanj arrived in Beirut on a 24-hour visit and was warmly received by Lebanon's Education, Youth and Sports Minister Jean Obeid and the Lebanese Football Federation. This was his first visit to Beirut in 24 years.

-Nijmeh will play its second leg against Al Ittihad Al Qatari at 6:00 p.m. today. The team needs a 1-1 draw or better to qualify for second round of the Asian Championship League.

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