Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) cordoned as of 5:00 a.m. this morning the two private religious television and radio stations of the Tripoli based Islamic Unification Movement "Al Tawheed", led by Sheikh Saeed Shaaban.
The ISF was enforcing a government decision taken on August 27, 1997, to close all unlicensed audio-visual stations. No armed manifestations were reported despite the massive crowds that gathered to support the Movement. Meanwhile, political contacts were intensified to work out a compromise.
Reacting to the measures, Sheikh Saeed Shaaban said, "we have our opinion and we will not permit anybody to abolish us. We have instructed our elements not to carry weapons because we do not want to use weapons in dealing with the State. I do not have any intention to shoot one single bullet at the gendarmery or the State no matter how outrageous its decisions are. But we will not implement a decision that would abolish Islamism".
All day long, the ISF continued cordoning the premise of the two stations without forcing its way in so as to avert further tension. Transport Minister Omar Miskawi headed to Beirut to meet Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in an attempt to mediate a compromise. But observers believe the government will not back off.
A sit-in off the Jerusalem Mosque in Sidon later the same day turned into an occasion of delivering speeches attacking the government's drive "to silence tongues and restrict freedoms".
Justice Minister Bahije Tabbara in a press conference today announced a new 3-year rent draft legislation involving contracts signed before July 23, 1992.
The draft law which, according to Tabbara, was sent to the Council of Ministers last Thursday for consequent approval, will later be referred to the Parliament before the expiry of the present law on December 31, 1997.
In his press conference, Tabbara said the law's three-year term will give the government ample time to provide more housing loans and encourage the revival of the rental market.
As to the law itself, Tabbara highlighted the following points:
1. Rentals will be subject to an automatic yearly increase equal to the inflation rate set by the Central Bank.
2. Rentals signed before 1987 will be subject to a 20 percent increase.
3. Tenants are encouraged to buy the leasehold, or evacuate it in return for compensation. In this case, the owner, after specifying the value of the leasehold, can ask the tenant to exercise the right of opting to: either evacuating the leasehold against receiving an indemnity equal to 40 percent of the specified value of the leasehold; or buying the leasehold for an amount equal to 60 percent of the its specified value; or a pay a rent equal to 3 percent of the specified value, provided this increase does not double the rental rate.
Czech President Vatslav Havel, following talks with President Hrawi and Prime Minister Hariri yesterday, described the Middle East Peace process as "a dream coming through step after step", though "a long period will pass before this dream becomes a reality".
Havel, who limited the aim of his Middle Eastern tour to expressing his country's support for the peace process, was also keen on highlighting that Lebanon could, to a number of other countries, be "an example of peaceful coexistence between individuals having different religions and convictions".
The Czech President in a press conference held later in the afternoon, expressed his confidence that "most people in this region want peace".
Yet his acute attitude with regard to terrorism was noteworthy, in the sense that he accused "only a small group of terrorists who want to stop the peace process and prevent it from achieving its goals". He did not specify which group was that. But he clarified that his country is "prepared to offer its services in the interest of peace, and would propose its land as an arena for any upcoming negotiations".
The Prince of Riyadh Salaman Ben Abdel-Aziz, commencing a visit described by Prime Minister Hariri as "an act of belief in Lebanon and the return of stability", affirmed Saudi Arabia's "continuos support for Lebanon's stability, reconstruction and harmony".
Arriving from Damascus at 11:00 a.m. heading a Saudi delegation yesterday, Prince Salman emphasized that "Saudi Arabia does not differentiate between one sect and another in Lebanon except in goodness and love". He was also keen on praising the stance of the President Assad and President Mubarak during the joint press conference held following their summit meeting in Alexandria yesterday. He said they both "gave a complete picture of a view point that serves Arab causes".
The recent remarks by Minister Walid Jumblat against Patriarch Sfeir were still evoking wide reactions yesterday. The timing, motivation, and background were questioned. Some said Jumblat's drive might be connected with the upcoming presidential elections a year from now.
A potential presidential candidate himself, Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz yesterday lashed heavily against Minister Walid Jumblat for his criticism of Patrairch Sfeir's calls for Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon.
"No body should make the mistake of ever believing he could monopolize the Syrian-Lebanese relations ", Boueiz said before leaving to Cairo to attend the Arab League's 108th session. He said the way Jumblat dealt with the matter reminds of "the mood that has prevailed during the civil strife". He said Jumblat's stands were programmed, and "those who programmed him should know they can't maintain exclusive relation with Damascus by creating a gap between the Christians and Syria". Boueiz's remarks were apparently directed at Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an informed source said.
-Israel's Defense Minister Yitzhac Mordakhi yesterday opposed the idea of expanding the security zone in south Lebanon and categorically rejected any unilateral withdrawal.
He outlined that the basic target before him now was to restore calm in northern Israel, bring civilians from both sides out of the violence circle, fighting Hizbullah, and searching for a political settlement that allows the Israeli army to go out of Lebanon after ensuring the security and safety of northern Israel.
He said it is in the interest of Israel to maintain the April understandings and bring the civilians out of the violence. He said he noticed that Hizbullah in recent battles did not use the "new weapons supplied by Iran", though it "possesses these weapons, and is perhaps keeping them for more serious military confrontations".
-Patriarch Sfeir upon receiving a French delegation said he is wary of what is going on in south Lebanon, and deeply concerned with the Israeli aggressions that are causing more killings and damages every day. He wished success for the international efforts aiming at resuming the peace process and achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He also praised the support France is according to Lebanon on different levels.
-Former Prime Minister Omar Karami stressed that Lebanon is an important information forum for the Arab world and the world at large. He said national interest is realized through the freedom of information, which cannot possibly be maintained without plural diversity. He also opposed closing the audio-visual media file, and criticized the splitting of licenses among senior officials.
-Head of the Maronite League Pierre Helou yesterday handed President Hrawi a survey on restructuring the Internal Security Forces (ISF). Helou warned of implementing the proposed draft bill and said the ISF should be enhanced. He recalled that the ISF had played a great national role and preserved its unity during the war.
-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili yesterday said that postponing the municipal elections was a crime. He called on the people to exert pressure on the authority until it sets out relevant laws to effect early elections.
-The National Liberal Party (NLP) expressed its regret today with regard to Jumblat's criticism of Patriarch Sfeir. At a weekly meeting headed by NLP President Dori Chamoun, the Party said "it viewed with regret the recent verbal assault by Minister Walid Jumblat against Patriarch Sfeir, and considers that Jumblat's drive was an attempt to evoke hatred and division, and accelerate past grievances.
-Hizbullah's Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan on Friday said the Syrian presence in Lebanon constitutes a major stability factor.
-Head of the Muslim Shiite Council Sheikh Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine on Friday said the attempts to separate the Lebanese and Syrian tracks will fail, and so would the Doha Economic conference which aims at opening the door for Israel's penetration of the Arab world.
-North Lebanon drug enforcement office in cooperation with the custom authority yesterday seized 78 kg of hashish compiled in steel drawers inside a Turkish truck at Tal Ayash along the northern borders. A Turkish driver was arrested on the charge of drug trafficking.
-Agriculture Minister Shawki Fakhoury said the Gulf market is now open for the Lebanese grapes, and that Jordan will receive the product as of early October.
-Lebanon's Central Bank announced that as of October 1, its offices will be opened from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Friday's and Saturday's working hours will remain the same.
-Lebanon's tennis players Ali Hamadeh and Hisham Zaitini beat 2-0 their Iranian counterparts at the first match between the two countries in the Asia-Oceanea second Cup Davis group finals, now held at the Kahraba club in Zouk. The Lebanese tennis team will play the double today. Winning it will qualify Lebanon to the first group, becoming the 32nd world best team.
-Lebanon's football federation is to celebrate, along with other countries in the World, the international Fair Play week on the 21st and 22nd of September. The Lebanese federation has arranged on the occasion special festivities parallel to the Ansar-Yemen football match on Sunday.
-The world power boats race was officially started in Beirut today.
-The Lebanese Olympic Committee decided to participate in 7 games in the First West Asia Games that will take place in Iran in next November.
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[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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