US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's tour to the Middle East, which will start tomorrow in Tel Aviv with one main focus aiming at rescuing the Oslo agreement, is not likely to visit Lebanon. Lebanese officials gave varied assessment as to whether Albright would visit Lebanon, but if the visit were to take place, it would probably be on Friday or Saturday, and for a few hours only.
In this regard, US officials including the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones, maintained silence. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is to leave tomorrow to Paris where he will meet on Friday with President Jacques Chirac. He is scheduled to come back on Sunday unless Albright decides to visit Beirut at an earlier date. Observers in Beirut expect Albright to visit Lebanon after meeting with President Hafez Assad in Damascus. The sources said the talks in Beirut would center on bilateral relations, the boiling situation in south Lebanon, and the peace process. US Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones after a visit to the Interior Minister Michel Murr said he has no information on whether Albright will be visiting Lebanon.
Albright's tour comes at a time when Lebanon's three top officials are outside the country. President Hrawi is due to arrive back from Brazil on Thursday evening. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nabih Berri will be on his way to Armenia and Iran after visiting Romania, and Prime Minister will leave Lebanon on Wednesday, heading to Paris. In case Mrs. Albright decides to visit Lebanon on Friday, President Hrawi, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz would receive her.
Commenting on the matter, Boueiz yesterday said the US administration has neither confirmed nor denied Albright's visit to Beirut. It is the usual for the US not to announce such visits for security considerations, press reports today said..
On the eve of Albright's visit to the region, relative calm spread in south Lebanon. Security reports said confrontations on Monday were limited to an Israeli shelling to outskirts of villages in the western sector, and an uneventful detonation of two roadside bombs. US and French diplomacies exerted efforts to defuse the tension and avert an explosive situation during Albright's visit, who, contrary to the Kissinger school of thought, prefers to operate in a cool atmosphere.
The five-nation ceasefire monitoring group yesterday held its meeting at 11.00 a.m. in Naqoura to examine the complaint Lebanon lodged against Israel, on the killing of a woman at Nsariyyeh, and the wounding of other civilians during last Friday's commando operation.
The two delegations of Lebanon and Syria went by land to Tyre, and were airlifted by a UNIFIL chopper to Naqoura. The Lebanese delegation was surprised on arrival by an Israeli complaint claiming that the killing Sunday of an Israeli officer at the Dabsheh post, was a result of an artillery and rocket attack launched by the resistance from residential areas. The Lebanese delegation rejected the claim on the grounds that the target was a military one. The Lebanese side said every time Lebanon files a complaint, Israel lodges another, regardless of whether the claim is justified or not. The Lebanese delegation displayed shrapnel and supportive videotapes, verifying that the area where the commando unit landed does not include military posts.
A Hizbullah source said Monday that the subject of exchanging the shreds of the Israeli soldiers with prisoners detained in Israel is still "under study". Earlier news said the International Commission for the Red Cross (ICRC) dispatched an envoy to Lebanon to arrange for the swap.
Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in a televised interview with the "LBC" on Sunday, revealed that he received proposals to exchange shreds of the Israeli soldiers blasted during Friday's confrontations, with Lebanese prisoners and detainees in Israeli Jails.
"We are interested in the swap operation because the issue of the Lebanese prisoners and detainees is important to us", he said. "We are exerting every possible effort for the release of those detainees, and there presently are a number of brokers with whom we are studying the appropriate mechanism".
On another note, Nasrallah said the failure of Friday's commando raid would increase the controversy inside Israel. "We believe the Israeli enemy has no option but to unconditionally withdraw from Lebanon", he said. "It is simply a matter of time".
Israeli President Azar Weizmen in a statement to the Israeli Radio yesterday, affirmed that there would be no settlement with Lebanon without negotiations with Syria. "It is imperative to negotiate with the Syrians even if that is difficult", he said. "The desired solution will provide calm and security along the Israeli-Lebanese borders, as it is the case along the borders with Jordan and Egypt".
-Hizbullah Internet Web service circulated tens of photos of Israeli soldiers' dismembered parts collected from the battlefield near Nsariyyeh last Friday. This was part of a psychological warfare launched against Israel, press reports today said.
-President Elias Hrawi is expected back in Beirut next Thursday. Hrawi yesterday visited the Rio Grandi State, which hosts around 200,000 Lebanese expatriates, including 25,000 in Porto Allegri.
-The Lebanese Center for Legal and Economic Studies yesterday debated the controversy over the naturalization bid, and said that imposing the condition of permanent residence in Lebanon, which would not be possible for most of the immigrants, is a gateway to nibble the Lebanese identity.
-House speaker Nabih Berri during his current visit to Romania conveyed to his counterpart Ion Diaconescu and Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea the complaints expressed by the Lebanese community there. Of these, most prominent were the reduction of work-permit duration from one year to six months and the delay in issuing visas to Lebanese investors. The talks centered on the implementation of already signed bilateral agreements, and enhancement of private investments.
-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is to sign a financial protocol during his two- day working visit to Paris. Meanwhile in Beirut, press reports said the Cabinet weekly meeting on Wednesday would not be held due to Hariri's absence. On another note, press reports today also said that the Syrian officials Hariri met on Sunday informed him that the US administration is not proposing any amendments to the April understanding.
-Patriarch Sfeir discussed with his visitors the subject of developing rural areas, including Jbeil. On another note, he said foreign labor is undermining job opportunities for the Lebanese, and is forcing them to immigrate. He wished the state institutions would help create new job opportunities in industrial, commercial, agricultural and productive projects.
-The Russian Union's foreign ministry in a statement yesterday, expressed its dismay over the landing operation carried by Israeli commando units in south Lebanon, and called Lebanon and Israel to avoid any steps that would lead to further tension in the region. The statement also said, "under this tense situation, we once again emphasize the necessity of respecting Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
-Kataeb Party branch in Cleveland-Ohio, on the 13th anniversary of the party's founder Pierre Gemayel, and the 15th anniversary of late President Beshir Gemayel, held a sermon attended by former President Amin Gemayel and his spouse.
-Muslim Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani upon receiving Australia's New South Wales Prime Minister Bob Carr, said Lebanon is an ideal country for mutual living between different communities, as it is the case in Australia. Qabbani said there is nothing that could endanger relations between the Muslims and the Christian communities.
-UNRWA donor and host countries held today a meeting in Amman to endorse the budget and discuss the financial crisis suffered by Agency. Lebanon's Ambassador to Jordan William Habib said host countries rejected reducing UNRWA's budget. Lebanon's refugees' office director Khalil Shatawi said UNRWA's budget deficit has been fabricated, and is against the set objective of the agency. Meanwhile, Palestinian camps in Lebanon staged today a general strike in protest to reducing the Agency's services.
-A US administration's letter to Lebanon's state prosecutor via the foreign ministry clarified reasons for not detaining Roger Tamraz while in detention in Georgia-Russia. It also gave reasons why former Lebanese Forces (LF) security official Elie Akiki was released hours after his detention in Tennessee. The letter also clarified why the US refused the extradition of former LF security chief Ghassan Touma, who has been charged with three assassination attempts in Lebanon. The letter said Tamraz is an American citizen since 15 years, and, besides that, there is no extradition agreement between Lebanon and US. The Lebanese judicial authority received information saying Akiki has left to Holland hours after his release in the US. As to Ghassan Touma, the letter pointed out that there is no agreement on extraditing criminals between Lebanon and the US. One alternative is deportation, and the matter is in the hands of the immigration judge, who alone is responsible for deporting non-Americans from the US, the letter said.
-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili in an interview published today said he expects a strong escalation after September 13 if the demands made by the "hunger revolution" are not met. He said Hizbullah did not contain him, and the council of notables primarily aims at protecting the people from the "monster" of the political authority. Tufeili expects a government change in Lebanon, "perhaps to resolve the economic crisis".
-Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday visited Damascus and met with the Syrian Vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. The talks focused on the current situation and the role of the April understanding in protecting civilians. Lebanon's internal issues were also discussed.
-Downtown Beirut's Grand Serail, an old Ottoman military garrison, or "Kishleh" , on top of a hill overlooking Beirut, has been renovated and will be the future government's house beginning 1998.
-Lebanon's Kahraba second basketball tournament under the name of Victor Haddad is to end today. Kahraba-Zopuk won third rank yesterday after beating the Italian Bitriyana 85-74. The final match today for the first and second rank is between the Greek Bengrati and Lebanese Wardieh.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
........ Coming Soon !
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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