News from Beirut September 18   1997 ...Search

Attacks in South Lebanon kill one Israeli soldier

Large-scale confrontation was still going on in south Lebanon since midnight yesterday between the Islamic resistance and Israeli forces in the Border strip, Jezzine and west Biqaa. The Islamic resistance today said its fighters launched a series of attacks against 25 Israeli and the SLA outposts. The resistance said the attacks were dedicated to the Lebanese army martyrs in Arabsalim last week. No resistance fighter were killed or wounded during the attacks. News reports said one Israeli soldier was killed and three others, including one SLA element, were wounded. Security sources also said that Israeli sporadic shelling of Nabatieh, upper Nabatieh, Habbouch, Kfartebnit and Kfarruman wounded 5 Lebanese civilians. One Lebanese army soldier was reported wounded in the confrontation. Amal movement said its fighters launched an attack against Israeli and SLA posts in Wadi Hajir and clashed with the enemy for 15 minutes.

Cabinet praises Syria's role in Lebanon

The Council of Ministers yesterday asked the councils of municipalities and mayors to continue normally "until new councils are provided". It also returned a number of draft laws, including one suggesting the "establishment a "Baalbeck-Hermel governorate", and another relating to exempting new nationality-acquirers from the ten-year delay period required for joining vocational syndicates.

On the political level, the meeting was characterized by a stance relating to the Syrian presence in Lebanon after Minister Jumblat raised items stipulated in the Taif Agreement in this regard. President Hrawi and Prime Minister Hariri commended "the role of Syria and its army in consolidating national consensus and enhancing the process of peace and stability in the country".

Headed by President Elias Hrawi, the Council of Ministers held at 6:00  p.m. yesterday ordinary session at the Baabda Presidential Palace. 25 ministers, including Prime Minister Rafik Hariri attended the session. Absent were ministers Elias Hobeika, Talal Irslan, Suleiman Franjieh, Mahmoud Abu Hamdan, Jean Obeid, and Yassine Jaber.

Following the session, Information Minister Bassem Sabaa announced the following:

1. President Hrawi commenced the meeting by pointing to the incidents recently witnessed in Lebanon and the region. He stopped at the recent visit by the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, pointing that the visit was merely a station awaiting further follow up during the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York, in the framework of  the negotiations which will include the Lebanese and the Syrian sides.

2. President Hrawi affirmed that the meeting held with Secretary Albright decided Lebanon's unvarying stance, especially in relation to the unity of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, Lebanon's commitment to a fair and comprehensive peace process, and its holding to UN resolution 425.

3. Prime Minister Hariri concurred to what the President said, emphasizing that Lebanon and Syria are moving together in a unified and an inseparable track. This, he said, is in the interest of both countries, and there consequently is no chance to raise anything contrary to this fact.

4. President Hrawi and Prime Minister Hariri commended the national consensus on the role of Syria and the Syrian Army in Lebanon, and the contributions this role made to solidifying the Lebanese national consensus and enhancing the prevailing stability and peace.

5. After that, the cabinet moved on to discussing the items listed on its agenda. Leading among these was the subject of municipal councils and mayors subsequent to the recent decision by the Constitutional Council.

6. President Hrawi, to avert possible vacuums, commenced the discussions by asking the Cabinet to approve a decision "demanding the councils of municipalities and mayors to continue on with their normal duties until new municipal and mayoral councils are provided". The suggestion was unanimously approved.

7. Upon discussing other agenda items, the Council decided to postpone discussions on a draft law aiming at establishing Islamic banks. It also returned an urgent draft law aiming at establishing a second governorate in Biqaa for the Baalbeck-Hermel area, and another aiming at exempting new nationality-acquirers from the ten-year delay period required for joining vocational syndicates.

8. The Council also approved referring a draft decree aiming at organizing the Lebanese University Tourism and hotel department, to a tripartite committee comprising the ministries of culture, tourism and financial affairs.

The drive to defend Syrian presence in Lebanon was initiated by Minister Jumblat in what some dailies interpreted as a retroactive reaction to remarks made by Patriarch Sfeir with regard to the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

As to the date set for the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections, Interior Minister Michel Murr was quoted as saying it would take place between 15th April and 15th May.

Albright shown goodwill, Assad says

Syrian president Hafez Assad in a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart in Alexandria today, said Mrs. Albright has shown good will and wants to move the peace process forward, but there are no guarantees that the peace process will go in the right direction.

President Assad said the current situation does not allow swimming in vacuum without tangible results, but "let's wait for developments". He added that some achievements were previously made in framework of the peace process, and some important provisions were agreed upon, though many had to be worked. But when Netanyahu came to power, that changed.

President Assad said the peace process should resume from where it ended, but the situation in Israel does not accept that. On Syrian-Turkish relations, President Assad said Syria couldn't play the role of a policeman for Turkey, which should tackle its internal problems.

Meanwhile in Cairo, 9 German tourists were killed today off the national Museum in Cairo in an attack launched by four armed men from the Jamaa Islamiya. Three of the attackers were reportedly and detained while trying to force their way into the museum. The four fled Away in a stand by car. The first this year, the attack was carried with Molotov bombs.

Netenyahu reiterates pullout bid

Israel's prime minister Bejamin Netanyahu said in an interview with the Jordanian television that Israel is ready to withdraw from south Lebanon if it receives guarantees from the Lebanese government that it will deploy its Army in south Lebanon and curb the activities of Hizbullah. He said "if  I guarantee that Hizbullah's "guerrilla fighters won't chase us to the borders and shell the Israeli towns, I'll withdraw from Lebanon right now". He added that if the Lebanese government is able to control Hizbullah, the Lebanese problem will be solved. He said, "no one wishes Israel to leave Lebanon more than we do".

News Briefs

-President Elias Hrawi today told his visitors he is determined to hold municipal elections at the earliest possible time. Interior minister Michel Murr said he was asked by the president to make arrangements allowing the people in the occupied border strip to apply at their villages for the new identity card. Murr said the measure has nothing to do with the warning of  SLA commander Antoine Lahad.

-House Speaker Nabih Berri today ended an 11-day official visit to Armenia, Romania and Iran. Supreme leader of the Islamic republic of Iran Ayatullah Ali Khamenii said he agreed with Mr. Berri that Iran should deal with the Lebanese people through state institutions". He hailed the Lebanese national unity and the role of the resistance in facing Israeli aggressions. Berri said in Tehran that the Lebanese army has integrated itself with the resistance and the people. Iranian officials said they are ready to exchange meetings with Lebanese officials on all levels and fields, and resume flights between the two countries as soon as possible. News reports said the office of Amal Movement in Tehran, closed since many years, is to be reopened.

-The Protocol Department of the Presidential Palace released the official schedule for the visit to Lebanon by Czech President Vatslav Havel on September 19 and 20.

-Army commander General Emile Lahoud, speaking to the Lebanese Journalists Association headed by Melhem Karam, said the army is for all the Lebanese people, and is determined to defend the land until the end. He said, "we are defending our land, this is our right and obligation, and we shall not retreat whatever the risks are".

-Lebanese army units opened fire at Israeli navy gunboats coming off the Khaizaran coast. The Islamic resistance traded artillery fire with Israeli and SLA forces across the frontlines, especially Iqlim Attufah and the mid sector. Several artillery shells struck the area near the UNIFIL Polish and Irish posts in Tibnine. Israeli warplanes flew at a low altitude and carried mock raids over the villages of Hadatha, Haees and Aita el-Shaab. The Islamic resistance denied Israeli allegation that two Israeli soldiers were killed and 6 wounded last week in a traffic accident. It said they were killed in a clash with the resistance men near the border village of Houla.

-The National Gathering comprising the national Liberal Party, the dissident Phalange Party faction, and followers of General yesterday warned the government of altering the spirit of the decision recently taken by the Constitutional Council.

-Former US Ambassador to Lebanon John Kelly who is on a private visit to Beirut, yesterday met with Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Foreign Minister Boueiz and Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul. Kelly said he feels safer in Lebanon than most American cities.

-US Ambassador Richard Jones after a visit to Prime Minister Hariri said his Administration is preparing for a number of meetings that would lead to resuming the peace talks. He said Hariri has expressed his satisfactions with " some" of the statements she made during her visit to Lebanon.

-Kesrouan MP Rshayd el-Khazen argued why only 100 people from Kesrouan are employed in Casino du Liban out of a total of 1,400 staff. Khazen said the Albert Abela company is being paid a yearly sum of $10mn for technical expertise only.

-The Jezzine Gathering in a meeting yesterday affirmed the return of  stability to Jezzine, and called on the people who left the area to return as soon stability. The Gathering also wished the government to extend all possible help to the people to register their children in the schools next year.

-MP Ali Khreis, returning from visit to Germany, said half the Lebanese community here are under the threat of being deported shortly. He said the first batch of deportees would include 12,000 Lebanese and 4,000 Palestinians holding Lebanese travel documents. He said the number of Lebanese residing in Germany is around 50,000, of whom half obtained nationality or permanent residence.


-Lebanese and Iranian players in the Davis cup finals of the second Asian and Oceanea group started training at Kahraba-Zouk before the games on Friday.

-Lebanon's first class volleyball championship for women continued. Four Armenian teams won the entire four matches played yesterday. Another four matches are scheduled for today.

-Lebanon won two gold medals in the world weight masters held in Poland. Mohammad Kaissi and Ali Shukeir won the medals.

-Lebanon's swimming championship held at Rimal for six consecutive days are over. Najah club was leading in male championship, while Jazira club won the female championship.

-Lebanese Olympic Committee member Tony Khoury returned back from Lauzanne-Switzerland where he participated in the committee meeting that has chose Athens as host for the 2004 Olympiad.

-Army commander General Emile Lahoud decorated army couch Guy Dariko for his 45 years of service in the army sports.

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