News from Beirut January 12  1998 ...Search

Vedrine in Lebanon hits at Israeli withdrawal conditions

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine today held talks with Lebanon's top leaders President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and opened the new building of the French consulate in Lebanon. Last night Vedrine held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Faris Boueiz at Boustrous Palace.

Speaking after talks in the foreign ministry, Vedrine said Israel's recent public acceptance for the  first time of UN Resolution 425 calling for its unconditional withdrawal from the South was encouraging. But he added it must also be noted that for the moment it is hedged about with a host of conditions not covered in the resolution. Vedrine also paid tribute to the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group set up by France and the United States in April 1996, saying it had succeeded in containing an escalation of the conflict on several occasions. For his part, Boueiz said Israel's statements should be carefully analyzed adding that resolution 425 is clear in demanding an immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal with no mention of a timetable or negotiations. Vedrine also said that France was committed and  available to find a solution to the Middle East conflict and revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Today, Vedrine officially inaugurated his country's consulate in Beirut before meeting the country's top leaders. During a press conference he held after meeting president Hrawi at the Baabda presidential palace, Vedrine reiterated his country's earnest desire to contribute to real peace in the region. He also welcomed Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai's statement that for the first time an Israeli defense minister had decided to respect the 1978 UN resolution calling for a pullout but also sounded a note of caution. Vedrine added France is very committed and present when it comes to the relations between Lebanon and Israel, Syria and Israel, and Syria and Lebanon, adding that the Lebanese-Syrian tracks cannot be separated.

The French Foreign Minister arrived in Beirut early yesterday at the start of a Middle East tour, his second since taking office last summer. He was accompanied by the chief of his foreign ministry's Middle East and Africa Department, Jean Claude Cousserand, and two MPs: Claude Estier, leader of  the socialists in the Senate, and Gerard Bapt, head of the France-Lebanon friendship group in the National Assembly. After his official talks today, Vedrine headed to Jordan where he is to meet Crown Prince Hassan, Prime Minister Abdel Salam Al-Majali and Foreign Minister Fayez Al-Tarawneh before being received by King Hussein this evening. Vedrine's following stop will be in Syria tomorrow. He will leave Syria on the same day after meeting Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad. The French Foreign Minister visited Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian self-ruled areas last November.

Monitoring group meets over six complaints

The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group today met to discuss a total of  six Israeli and Lebanese complaints over alleged violations of the cease-fire agreement. It was the first meeting this year of the group, which comprises the United States, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and France. The group was set up to monitor a 1996 understanding between Israel and Hizbullah. In today's meeting, Lebanon filed three complaints to the group saying that Israeli shelling had wounded two civilians and damaged houses in Lebanese villages in the South. The Lebanese delegates to the meeting presented video films to support their complaints. The three Israeli complaints were lodged over the firing of mortar bombs into northern Israel and over guerrilla firing from villages in South Lebanon which damaged a cat and house inside the occupation zone.

Head of EU commissioner expected in the region

Diplomatic sources in Lebanon today said the head of the European Commissioner Jacques Santer will visit the region next February. His one-week visit is expected to include Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian self-ruled areas, Egypt and Jordan. This is Santer's first visit to the region where he is scheduled to hold talks with top Mideast leaders on the stalled peace talks.

Snow is almost everywhere in Lebanon

Many Lebanese today woke up on one of the most beautiful expressions of  nature; snow everywhere. It was a severe snow storm which invaded the country during the weekend. Heavy snowfalls closed many roads across the country, preventing people to go to work, students to go to school, and paralyzing many of the country's vital sectors. In some areas, only a few drivers and pedestrians ventured outdoors as bulldozers began to clear the main streets. Some roads were even shut for safety reasons. But, as always when there is an unexpected fall of snow, youngsters have been out enjoying themselves, making the most of the novel weather while it lasts.

Portemilio Suite Hotel   The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon

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