News from Beirut September 22  1997 ...Search

Nasrallah pledges shelling Israel if civilian targets are attacked

Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, during a massive rally held yesterday in memory of his son Hadi and two of his comrades who were killed in Iqlim Attufah 9 days ago, pledged to attack Israel if the Israeli threat to attack Lebanon's infrastructure is  implemented.

"We and our struggling comrades in occupied Palestine can bring the Israeli entity to a phase where there will be no tourism, economy and installations", he said.

Responding to recent threats by Israel's Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani, Nasrallah said, "the enemy links between resistance and reconstruction, between occupation and development in Lebanon, and considers that one available mean is shelling Lebanon's infrastructure and vital installation every time Israeli soldiers come under the fire and roadside bombs of resistance fighters in South Lebanon and west Biqaa".

"We too should be more concerned than enemy with linking between development and liberation, and between reconstruction and liberation. I must tell the enemy - not as a mere threat or word consumption - that Lebanon's infrastructure and installations are civilian, and attacking them will be retaliated, and we won't keep silent when our country and what is being built on it is destroyed", He said.

"We also want to tell the enemy that we and our struggling brethren in Palestine are also able to bring it to a stage where there will be no tourism or economy or installations, he said. "It is true they have warplanes that could invade our skies, but we have suicide fighters who can invade all its markets, cities and settlements, and nothing can stand between them and their target. What could the enemy do against death lovers and martyrdom seekers? We have lived many years without electricity, roads, and bridges, and we can live many more years without them, but we cannot for a moment live without our dignity".

Nasrallah also called Arab and Islamic countries to benefit "from the experience of the negotiations they had with the enemy since and before the Madrid conference", noting that the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has come to the region "for the sake of Israel's security and the slogans launched by Netanyahu himself".

In his speech, Nasrallah also disclosed a plan to enlarge Hizbullah's guerrilla fighters base to include volunteers from other sects and confessions.

Commenting on the Party's drive to broaden the resistance base, one newspaper said it was really remarkable that House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Hariri, and Army Commander General Emile Lahoud sent representatives to speak on their behalf in the popular gathering, which massed over 40,000 people.

In the same context, Israeli daily Haaretz, quoting an Israeli security source, said that the ongoing cooperation between Hizbullah, Amal Movement and the Lebanese Army is threatening. The source gave particular reference to the ability of the Lebanese Army to supply Hizbullah with armored vehicles, anti aircraft artillery and night vision instruments.

Speaking on the occasion, State Minister for Financial Affairs Fouad Seniora, representing Prime Minister Hariri, said, "liberation of the land is a top priority. It is our right and no one can deny us that. He said there would be no peace at the expense dignity, and the first and foremost condition for peace is the elimination of Israeli occupation and its unconditional withdrawal from all occupied territories. He said there wouldn't be two peace tracks for Lebanon and Syria, but only one.

The Head of the Muslim Shiite Higher Council Sheikh Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine said there will be no peace with the enemy. Matn MP Ghassan Mattar, representing House Speaker Nabih Berri said the three unvarying conditions for liberation are the unity of the resistance against the enemy, the unity of the country behind the resistance, and unity of destiny of both Syria and Lebanon. Speakers also included representative from the Iranian Embassy and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Two killed as ISF raids unlicensed media in Tripoli

Twenty four hours after cordoning off the premise of a television and radio station belonging to the fundamentalist Islamic Unification Movement, "Tawheed", in Tripoli last Saturday, Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) raided the place, implementing an earlier decision by the government to close down illegal audio-visual media. Eight Hundred ISF elements were deployed to enforce the decision.

Executed during an early hour yesterday, the raid led to killing two supporters of the Islamic Unification Movement, and wounding 8 others, including 3 ISF officers. The raiding force also arrested 84 members of the Movement, including two sons of the Movement's leader Sheikh Saeed Shaaban who, in a statement, held Prime Minister Hariri personally responsible for the confrontations.

"Rafik Hariri has lent me blood and neither himself, nor any other force on earth, can silence the voice of Islam", Shaaban was quoted as saying.

Shaaban, addressing reporters later, said, "we announce that Prime Minister Hariri is responsible for what has happened, and we consider that this ugly crime is part of a political deal between the Lebanese authority in the person of Hariri, and the minister of American terrorism Albright".

"We see in what happened a translation and a beginning of this crooked deal which, we think, will be followed by other incidents against the Islamic and the national groups facing the Zionist American project", Shaaban said.

Security sources later said that ISF first fired in the air after Islamic fundamentalists began throwing stones at them. Then, using tear bombs, they managed to stormed into the headquarters of the Movement in the Tripoli district of Abu Samra, and silenced its radio station, "The voice of Justice" (Sawt Al Haq), and its television station, "The Crescent" (AL Hilal). The sources further said that the ISF stormed into the radio and television stations at 6:00 a.m., and finished the operation in about an hour.

The ISF in a statement later said that its forces cordoned off the premise 24 hours in advance, giving ample time for voluntary closure. But Shaaban's insistence on broadcasting, forced the ISF to force its way in. The statement further said the ISF dismantled the stations' broadcasting equipment, arrested those who resisted the force, and confiscated a quantity of arms and explosives.

In Beirut, fresh security reports today said 40 people arrested on Sunday in Tripoli were released, while 44 others were still under investigations. News reports said the situation in Tripoli returned to normal today amid strict and extensive security measures. Meanwhile, Sheikh Saeed Shaaban reiterated his determination on continuing the broadcast by whatever means possible. He assailed the attack against his followers whom, he argued, has "used stones in self defense". He said he has a videotape that shows "every little detail of the battle".

After "Tawheed", government picks "Sawt Beirut"

Twenty four hours after closing the Islamic Unification Movement's radio and television stations in Tripoli, Internal Security Forces this morning ordered in a memo "Voice of Beirut" (Sawt Beirut) to close down.

The warning came in compliance with a decision taken by the government on July 23, 1997, to shut down all unlicensed audio-visual media. Refusing to receive the memo, the radio's secretary general said the warning should be handed over to the station's proprietor Kamal Shatila now living abroad. Shatila, a leader of the "Union of the people's Working Forces" now operating the station, was later quoted as saying that he puts the radio station at the disposal of the Sunnite Grand Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani. Until a late hour today, the ISF was still cordoning off the station.

Lebanon's Budget deficit worries World Bank

On the margin of the 52nd meeting held yesterday in Hong Kong by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa Director Anwar Soud said the Lebanese government was able to make good progress on the construction level, but it was unable to reduce the budget deficit as was expected.

"Perhaps what happened in April 1996 was the reason", Soud said in an interview. "But we expect the Lebanese government to take the necessary measures to control the deficit, and this is something we care about a lot at the World Bank".

Soud also affirmed that when the President of the World Bank visited Lebanon, he reaffirmed the Bank's invariable rules with regard to establishing a balance between social and infrastructure spending. He said, "we sensed that the Lebanese government is concerned with social programs involving health, schools, vocational and technical education, and financing social development projects. We signed agreements with the Lebanese government to develop these projects, and we are seeking to implement them in the Baalbeck-Hermel region".

As to the World Bank's plan for Lebanon, he said it includes three aspects: "constructing the infrastructure, rehabilitating the institutions, and implementing environmental projects and social spending".

Then, pointing to the strong indicators of Lebanon's economy - like controlling inflation, stabilizing the Lebanese Pound's exchange rate and reducing interest rates - he said, "what worries us is the budget deficit, despite its short-term nature".

"Confidence in Lebanon gets stabilized when investors and donor countries finds a retraction in the budget deficit", he added.

Brief News

-Prince of Riyadh Salman ben Abdel-Aziz departed today ending a three-day official visit to Lebanon. His last stop was a tour of downtown Beirut. Prince Salman was warmly welcomed and hosted by Lebanon's top officials.

-Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz returned back Sunday evening after participating in the Arab League's 108th ordinary session in Cairo. Boueiz reiterated Lebanon's rejection to attend the Doha [Middle East and North Africa] Economic Conference. He said the success of the conference in Doha would deprive the Arabs from the card of normalizing relations with Israel. He said the atmosphere is not convenient now for an Arab summit.

-Lebanon's Information Minister Bassem Sabaa received a message from his Palestinian counterpart Yasser Abed Rabbou informing him that the health ministry in Israel has issued more than 1,000 permits to pharmaceutical companies to "test dangerous medicines on Palestinian and Arab detainees in the Israeli jails".

-Former Prime Minister Omar Karami yesterday said that the current economic and social problems would not deter him from pursuing national goals. He said Lebanon is facing conspiracies on various levels through the confessional slogans that show up from time to time. Karami called on the government to pay back the municipalities' funds that were collected by the finance ministry.

-Emigrants Minister and leader of the Arslani Druze clan, Talal Arslan, speaking at the 14th anniversary of his father's death, yesterday said he is going to establish a political group that is far from confessionalism and sectarianism. Arslan stated that more than LP10bn of the Chweifat 1997 municipal budget was stolen.

-Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir in his Sunday sermon said "together we can build a country that deserves to be free, sovereign and independent, a country that commits itself to truth and values, a country that would bring its citizens to be proud of, and its neighbors to trust ".

-Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ighnatius the Fourth Hazim inaugurated a church in Ain Harsha, Rashaya, and was received by massive crowds and banners welcoming him.

-Biqaa MP Robert Ghanem yesterday said the Syrian Arab army was not and will not be an occupying army, and is a guarantor of the country's internal stability. He said the most important topic now is the strategic relation between Lebanon and Syria, a relation dictated by the nature of the mutual struggle against Israel.

-Maronite Bishop of Sidon Tanios Khoury headed a sermon at Mazraet Dahr-Achouf where he laid the foundation of its church.

-Minister of Culture Fawzi Hobeish checked the archeological sites and ruins of Deir el-Qamar, and said they represent a great heritage that should be preserved.

-The Italian President is due to visit Lebanon sometime between October and November, the Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon said.

-A delegation of Iraqi industrialists is due to visit Lebanon early October to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.

Sports Round Up

Lebanon moves up to first Davis Cup group.

Lebanon's Tennis home team, after beating Iran 4-1 in the decisive match, moved Lebanon up to zone one of the Tennis competition, thus becoming one of the leading teams in the Asian and Oceanic region of the Davis Cup, which so far includes Japan, China, Indonesia and Philippines.

On it's first day, victory was achieved by the team's two champions, Ali Hamadeh and Hisham Zaytini who both won their games 3-0 against Iran's two best prayers, Reza Nakhai and Akbar Tahiri, getting a 2-0 lead.

On Saturday last, Hamadeh and Zaytini played the double match against their two Iranian Opponents and won in three sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-3). On Sunday, Zaytini confronted Nakhai and finally beat him 7-6, 6-3, putting the Lebanese 4-0 up mark.

Lebanon's tennis team previously overcame Saudi Arabia in Riyadh 5-0, and Thailand 5-0 at Zouk in Lebanon. Head of the Lebanese Tennis Union congratulated the two Lebanese players saying they are qualified to play for first group.

-Two Italians, Eduardo Polli and Lamberto Leone, yesterday won the first group powerboat 7th stage race that took place in Beirut between Ramlet el-Baida and the Beirut Port. The two covered the 210-km long distance in 11 cycles and one hour and 45 minutes. Seven powerboats participated in the race, which was escorted by Lebanese army helicopters and boats.

The Saudi Laith Pharaon and John Tomilson won the second rank. The third was won by the UAE's Hareb and Ed Qiller, and the fourth by the two Italians Kaskoni and Simoni. The 8th race will take place on 31st October in Dubai. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri granted the winners their medals.

-Lebanese Ansar football team overcame Al Wihdah-Yemen 2-0 on Sunday at the Beirut Malaab Baladi stadium for the 16th round of the Asian clubs cup17. Twenty two thousand people attended the match.

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