News from Beirut September 19   1997 ...Search

Czech President arrives in Beirut

Czech President Vaclav Havel, beginning a Middle East tour, arrived today in Beirut on a two-day official visit aiming at enhancing bilateral relations and restoring the deadlock peace process. In a press conference held this afternoon, Havel expressed his country's support for UN resolution 425, and called for a cessation of hostilities. The Czech President's visit to the region includes Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian self rule areas.

Prince of Riyadh visits Lebanon

The Prince of Riyadh Salman ben Abdel-Aziz today arrived in Beirut on a three-day official visit aiming at discussing bilateral relations and the faltering peace process. Upon arrival to the Beirut International Airport, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and a large delegation of Lebanese officials met Prince Salman. In a statement, the Saudi official reiterated the Kingdom's continuos support for Lebanon on both, the economic and political levels.

State should run the swap, Berri says

House Speaker Nabih Berri today met the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Lebanon Jean-Jack Fresard and discussed with him the ongoing mediation for swapping the remains of the Israeli soldiers killed during the Nasriyeh commando operation, with Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails. Berri was quoted as saying that Amal movement has the head of an Israeli soldier, adding that any swap talks must be conducted through the Lebanese State.

Yesterday's attacks surprise Israeli forces

The Islamic resistance and Amal Movement yesterday launched 28 attacks against Israeli posts in south Lebanon and west Biqaa killing one Israeli officer and wounding three others, in addition to destroying an Israeli Mirkava tank.

Surprising the Israeli forces, the attacks later drew large scale sporadic shelling of wide areas in south Lebanon and west Biqaa, wounding 5 Lebanese civilians and one Lebanese army soldier. News reports said Israeli artillery yesterday fired around 350 shells including internationally banned types. Israeli warplanes meanwhile raided areas in Iqlim Attufah and Mashghara.

The Islamic resistance dedicated the 28 attacks to the Lebanese army soldiers who martyred during the recent Israeli air raids against Arabsalim.

In Israel, the Israeli television yesterday reported the destroy of the Israeli tank in which one Israeli officer was killed and three other wounded, and argued why no protection was provided for the crew.

Hizbullah rejects swapping bodies for remains

Hizbullah's Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qasim yesterday affirmed his party readiness to perform the ongoing swap operation through the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

He said the swap operation should not be a bodies-for-remains operation. Qasim was apparently referring to the possibility of limiting the operation to swapping the remains of the Israeli soldiers for the bodies of Hadi Hassan Nasrallah and his two comrades.

Press reports in Beirut said ICRC's efforts have so far reached the point of getting accepted by all the parties concerned as the sole mediator for the swap operation. The reports said Fresard has conveyed messages to Prime Minister Hariri and Hizbullah. The response reportedly was that Israel should present its offer first, which should primarily include swapping detainees for Israeli soldiers' remains.

Row in Lebanon over Jumblat's remarks

Minister Walid Jumblat's remarks on the statements made by Patriarch Sfeir with regard to the Syrian presence in Lebanon, received yesterday varied reactions ranging between supporting Jumblat's remarks, and denouncing his hints at Bkerke. The Maronite league criticized Jumblat's hints, saying they were poisonous and aiming at instigating civil strife. The league called for ending the blackmail bid and the use of the Syrian presence to overshadow packages, deals and violations. Former Prime Minister Omar Karami and MP Ayoub Hmayed said the Syrian presence in Lebanon was a stabilizing factor. Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz in a television interview said Jumblat was trying to induce split and revive old times of row and dispute.

News Briefs

-House Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday conferred with Interior Minister Michel Murr over the issue of the municipal elections. Murr said after the meeting that the government is planning to lay down 3 draft bills relating to administrative decentralization, municipal and mayoral elections, and parliamentary elections. Murr said the delay is due to the need for more political contacts with various parties in the country to reach agreement on the text and the provisions.

-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday presided over a military-ministerial committee devoted to studying ways and means of covering and reducing the costs of the military hospitalization. The committee will pursue the matter in subsequent meetings.

-Former Prime Minister Omar Karami yesterday warned that municipal elections would be postponed year after year until 1999. Karami said there are some decision makers who do not want these elections to take place. He also hailed the Constitutional Council's ruling on rejecting the extension of municipalities' mandate.

-Batroun MP Boutros Harb yesterday said municipal elections are not possible before the coming spring, and the constitutional council's ruling was not in fact against extension the term of municipalities, but rather against the unjustified extension.

-Construction of the Beirut southern outlet known as the Cola-Cocodi-1  is simultaneously proceeding with the project of expanding the Beirut International Airport. Works are expected to finished in a few months time.

-Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz is to leave today to Cairo to participate in the Arab League's 108th ordinary session due to begin in Cairo tomorrow. The session is expected to witness an Egyptian effort with regard to coordinating between the Palestinian track and the other tracks. A Syrian bid to soften the atmosphere between Iraq and the Gulf countries, is also expected.

-Former US Ambassador to Lebanon John Kelly continued his visit to Beirut and met President Elias Hrawi and Speaker Nabih Berri. Kelly excluded the possibility of having any peace success in the region without Lebanon, and said Mrs. Albright's tour in the region was necessary. He said that once he returns to the US, he will write about the present situation in Lebanon in order to correct any wrong information on the subject.

-Information Minister Bassem Sabaa reaffirmed that the audio-visual media file has been closed politically. Meanwhile, reports said more than 18 radio stations have now resumed broadcasting.

-Roger Tamraz, an American businessman of Lebanese origin, said he is innocent of the charges of embezzlement and fraud made against him in  Lebanon. He said the campaign to destroy his image in the US is led by his enemies in Lebanon, merely because he was cooperating with the CIA, seeking peace with Israel, and serving US interests in Lebanon. Tamraz said he was at a time the number one candidate for Lebanon's presidency, but he was referred to as a Jew. Tamraz said his $1bn property in Lebanon was illegally confiscated.

Sports Round Up

-Davis cup games today began between Lebanon and Iran on the finals of Asia-Oceanea second group. The Lebanese player Ali Hamadeh will play today with Iranian Nakaii and the Lebanese Hisham Zaitini against Iranian Tafakoli.

-Nijmeh and Racing are to play today a postponed football match of  Lebanon's football championship for the first class teams. The match will take place at the Bourj Hammoud Stadium.

-Two days before the world's 7th round of the championship of the Power Boats Race in Beirut on Saturday and Sunday, the competition seemed high and accentuated. One racing boat, the Riviera-Shell, failed in the early training session, and its engine caught fire. This might probably lead to its withdrawal.

-Lebanese football team Ansar is to play with the Yemen Wehda on Sunday in the framework of the second phase of the Asian championship.

-The Lebanese Gold union organized as of today a two-day golf tournament for both female and male players at Ouzai.

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