News from Beirut September 17   1997 ...Search

Albright raises 3 hot topics during talks in Beirut

Diplomatic sources in Beirut hinted that the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her official talks in Lebanon raised 3 topics:

1. The issue of the deadlocked Israeli-Lebanese talks, and the dangers this is posing.

2. The situation in south Lebanon, the violence witnessed in parts of  that area, and the assistance Lebanon should provide to extinguish it

3. Terrorism and the role Lebanon is demanded to play in combating it.

On point 1, Lebanon affirmed its readiness to activate negotiations as soon as possible on the basis set by the Madrid Conference.

On point 2, Lebanon said the shortest way to calming the situation in south Lebanon is implementing UN resolution 425, which calls for the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon and western Biqaa. In this connection, Lebanon said that the conditions set every now and then by some Israeli leaders are not acceptable. An example of that was the demand to test over a period of time the ability of the Lebanese Army to control the security situation in south Lebanon.

On point 3, Lebanon said that if Israel demands curbing the resistance before it pulls out from the occupied areas, than this condition is rejected because the resistance will be rendered unnecessary the moment Israel withdraws from the occupied border strip and western Biqaa.

On the subject of terrorism, the sources said President Hrawi explained in details Lebanon stance in this regard, and said if resisting occupation is interpreted as a terrorist act, than Lebanon is against this interpretation.

During the meeting, Hrawi asked Albright What happened during your talks with the region's leaders on the subject of the peace negotiations?

Albright replied that she managed to convince the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume talks in Washington and New York, and that the matter needs time.

She added, "with regard to my talks in Damascus, I sensed that there is a big gap between President [Hafez] Assad and Mr. Netanyahu. I also agreed with the foreign ministers of the countries I visited, on meeting them in New York on the margin of the United Nations General Assembly meeting to continue the consultations, and listen to replies on the questions I raised during my meetings in the region". She also said that the Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa would be among those she will be meeting.

Lebanese officials said satisfied with Albright's visit

Sources close to President Elias Hrawi and House Speaker Nabih Berri expressed satisfaction over the visit of the chief American Diplomat to Beirut. The sources said the outcome of the visit will positively show up during the meetings Albright will hold this month with the Lebanese and Syrian foreign ministers.

However, observers in Beirut said the visit did nothing more than outlining the Lebanese invariable stand and the US intentions. Lebanese officials were told Washington is not opposed to neither is working for separating the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, nor is supportive of what has been known as the "Lebanon First" proposal. Added to that, the US official reaffirmed her country's support for Lebanon's reconstruction, the Lebanese army, and refrained from classifying the resistance against Israel as an act of terrorism. Observers also noted that Albright's affirmation that Lebanon is basic for peace signified that Lebanon was still a US major concern.

Albright, after her return to Washington ending her first ever visit to the Middle East, said she has found the crisis of confidence worst than she had thought between the Palestinians and Israelis. She said the solution in south Lebanon will be delayed until a comprehensive settlement for the entire region is reached. She said her visit to Lebanon partly aimed at expressing the US support to Lebanon's reconstruction and revival. But she reiterated that Lebanon was still a dangerous place. Sources in Washington said Albright wanted to hold her talks with the Lebanese officials in Beirut, and not elsewhere, in order to signal Washington's support for rebuilding Beirut and its role as the capital of a united Lebanon, heading to full economic and political recovery.

Monitoring group tasks won't change, Rapan says

Current deputy chief of the ceasefire monitoring group Laurent Joseph Rapan affirmed that France supports Lebanon's independence, and sovereignty over all its territories, and "that is why we are present in this group". He clarified that he has been appointed as head of the group, and that he would assume his role as chairman as of October 1.

On the occasion, Rapan, accompanied by the French Ambassador Daniel Jouanot and members of the French delegation, yesterday visited President Hrawi, Prime Minister Hariri, Defense minister Mohsen Dalloul and Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz.

At the Foreign Ministry, Rapan said he is convinced the group has a very important role as it aims at reducing tension in south Lebanon and protecting civilian lives, But that role, he said, is limited because it cannot possible be a substitute for negotiating committees. Yet this limited role does not diminish its importance, as some are assuming, he added.

Told that the Israelis are trying to change the group's role and mission, Rapan said, "the role of the group was specified in accordance with the text laid down on April 26, 1996". The rules of the understanding, he said, are clear, and we are ready to implement them.

What some Lebanese press media have published with regard to the possibility of amending the group's mission, is not true, and the matter is not under consideration".

US Embassy launch $60m assistance program in Lebanon

The US Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones, and Lebanon representative of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) James Stevenson, yesterday (Sept. 16) held at the US Embassy in Awkar a reception marking the beginning of implementing the US Development Strategy for Lebanon.

The occasion was attended by a large number of ministers, deputies, and economic and information personalities, in addition to a number of ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions.

Jones delivered a word welcoming those present, and introduced Stevenson, who is the first USAID representative in Lebanon the since 1989. In turn, Stevenson delivered a word highlighting the Agency's strategies for the next five years.

He said, "the plan focuses on reconstruction, providing more economic opportunities, and supporting democratic and environmental institutions. It also focuses on granting assistance relating to basic infrastructure, and environmental protection".

Stevenson, reviewing the Agency's history in Lebanon, pointed out that the United States have specified its commitments with regard to reconstructing Lebanon after the 'Friends of Lebanon Conference'. And my presence here today representing the Agency, and launching a US$60m assistance program for the next five years, is a clear proof of this commitment".

He explained that the "Agency's program includes assistance to more than 200 Lebanese villages on the social and economic levels, through voluntary organizations. The assistance emphasizes on the most needy and lacking regions. It is done with the participation of the Lebanese government, donor countries, local voluntary organizations, and the private sector. We hope to prove after one year that this project will revive rural areas that were harmed during the war".

"We will continue to cooperate with the Parliament to improve its information system, operations room and services", he said. "And we will enter with the government and the private sector in a policy of dialogue that would attract capital and investments, and give Lebanon the opportunity to participate in the World's economy".

On another note, Ambassador Jones also announced that American military experts would help the Lebanese Army remove tens of thousands of land mines scattered across the country. "It is a unilateral step decided ten days ago in Washington. It involves military-to-military assistance," he said, explaining that the US experts will train the Army and possibly civilians in the removal of land mines.

Speaker Berri meets Iranian President in Teheran

Lebanon's House Speaker Nabih Berri during his current visit to Teheran said, "the only solution for Israel is to simultaneously pullout from both, south Lebanon and the Golan Heights ".

Berri, who was received by the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, said Israel should pull out of Lebanon before it becomes a trap for its soldiers, similar to the one the US faced in Vietnam.

President Khatami said Iran is working for Lebanon with all its communities and groups. He said his country supports the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli occupation, and hailed the steadfastness of the people, and the sacrifices of south Lebanon and western Biqaa. He also hailed the unity of the Lebanese people behind the Lebanese army, the state and the resistance. Khatami said the presence in the Gulf of  aliens, and the expansionist policy of the Zionist State, were behind the tension. He said that governments of the region have now reached the stage of restoring stability and security. Khatami hailed the resistance in south Lebanon, and said Hizbullah and other resistance groups are maintaining an honorable resistance. He also called on Arab countries to support the resistance in Lebanon. He said the Lebanese government and people could consider Iran as a friend.

In turn, the Iranian House Speaker said the unity and solidarity of the Lebanese people have foiled Israeli schemes and aspirations. He said the Israeli decision makers who supported the occupation of south Lebanon, are now thinking of pulling out. He said promoting relations between Beirut and Tehran would pave the way for developing relations with other Arab countries. He said the countries of the region should regard the US and Israel as a major threat.

Israeli officer views Hizbullah as the World's best guerrilla

Israel's defense minister Yitzhac Mordakhi yesterday warned that the recent successes of Hizbullah in south Lebanon would encourage the party to place more explosive charges and increase casualties among the Israeli soldiers. Mordakhai described the situation in the South as extremely delicate, and therefore every effort should be exerted to ease the tension. He said, as defense minister, he is not free to undertake attempts to reach a settlement with Lebanon, adding "Albright's visit to Lebanon was not coincidental".

Meanwhile, the Israeli media reflected the atmosphere of worry that prevailed in Israel after the death of Hadi Nasrallah, the son of  Hizbullah leader's. It said the Israeli army is in a state of maximum alert, and unit commanders were instructed to be extremely cautious. The Israeli media predicted that Hizbullah is going to solidify its relation with the Lebanese army, and that is worrying the Israeli army.

Another Israeli daily said a special academy was established in Israel to train Israeli land troopers to fight Hizbullah in a guerrilla-warfare style. The establishment of the academy was found necessary after a series of failures on the part of the Israeli army. The paper said all land troops sent to serve in Lebanon would train in this academy.

The officer in charge of the academy said, "Hizbullah is not anymore one of the Palestinian groups which Israel fought for years, it is different in its fighting methods, its a paramilitary organization, its excellent training which makes it one of the World's best guerrilla organizations".

Government hostile to border strip resident, Lahad says

SLA Commander Antoine Lahad yesterday warned of serious consequences if the government in Beirut does not reconsider its decision not to receive applications for the new identity cards from the occupied border strip.

Lahad said the government is hostile to the residents of the border strip and Jezzine, and its decision is discriminative. He claimed that the crossing restrictions imposed by the Lebanese security agencies deprive the vast majority of the people there from going out.

The measure, he said, aims at stripping the inhabitants of Jezzine and the border strip from their Lebanese identity, and regards them as enemies. Lahd denounced the "allegations" made by Interior Minister Michel Murr with regard to Israel's possible abuse of the new identity card. He wished the people there not to go to Beirut to apply.

News Briefs

-Referring to House Speaker's Berri's recent visit to Romania, a Lebanese daily today said that, among other things, the visit aimed at paving the grounds for the Lebanese immigrants to transfer capital from the unstable African countries to Romania

-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday received the head the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Lebanon, Jean-Jacques Fresard. During the visit, Fresard submitted to Hariri a letter addressing the exchange of the remains of the Israeli soldiers who died during the recent military clashes in Nsariyeh, for Lebanese captives in Israeli jails. The ICRC official refused to disclose the content of the traded messages. He said he would also visit Hizbullah and Interior Minister Michel Murr.

-Lebanese politicians and active forces continued to hail the constitutional council's ruling on municipalities, and called the government to avert the vacuum by specifying a near election date.

-The parliamentary subcommittee on telephone tapping, including State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum, said a full report on their findings would shortly be sent to Speaker Berri.

-Former US ambassador to Lebanon John Kelly yesterday arrived in Beirut on a five-day private visit to attend a meeting of the AUB Board of Trustees, of which he is a member. Commenting on the recent US ban on travel to Lebanon, he said that he himself has ignored the ban twice when he came to Beirut in 1991 and 1995. He said he never felt he was insecure here, contrary to what the case is in many American cities and towns.

-Former MP Fouad Saad demanded an audit of all state institutions dealing with the issue of the displaced. Saad said after seven years, it is ridiculous for the displaced to beg and plea the government to bring them back to their to their homes.


-Lebanon's football federation cabled FIFA president and expressed gratitude for the feeling he showed for Lebanon during his recent visit. The federation decided to implement measures aiming at pumping foreign technical expertise into national teams.

-Lebanon tennis union's arrangements for the Lebanon and Iran matches on the David Cup were finalized. The lottery will take place tomorrow, while the games will to start on Friday.

-Riyadi Lebanon overcame Egypt air in a friendly basketball match at Zriyadi stadium in Manara, Beirut.

-Training for the Beirut fast powerboats first class world tournament began today. UAE racer Saiid Tayer is looking to win the leading seat.

-Lebanon won two gold medals, two bronze medals and one silver medal in the M.E. body fitness championship held in Jordan from 11 to 15 September.

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