The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group today urged both Israel and Hizbullah to try harder to avoid civilian casualties and damage in South Lebanon. A statement issued by the group today said the panel urges that combatants act strictly in accordance with provisions of the understanding and that greater precautions be taken to ensure that civilians are not affected in the course of military actions.
The group met yesterday for the first time this year to discuss a total of six Israeli and Lebanese complaints over alleged violations of the cease-fire understanding. Lebanon forwarded three complaints that Israeli shelling had wounded two civilians and damaged houses in Lebanese villages bordering the zone Israel occupies in the South.
The Israeli complaints were lodged over the firing of mortar bombs into northern Israel and over guerrilla firing from South Lebanon villages which damages a car and a house inside the occupation zone.
The group comprising the United States, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and France was set up in April 1996 to monitor and understanding reached between Israel and Hizbullah which ended a 17-day Israeli onslaught on Lebanon. The understanding bars Israel and Hizbullah from hitting civilian targets. It did not rule out guerrilla attacks against Israeli troops and their allied militia inside the zone.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today received deputy Joseph Al-Hashem. Discussions centered on the war displaced problem and the ways to ensure more funds for enabling them to return to their villages. Hashem revealed there was a possibility of ensuring a sum of 220 million US dollars for this cause.
Meanwhile, the budget and finance parliamentary committee also met today in parliament. The committee headed by deputy Khalil Hrawi continued studying the 1998 state budget. Sources close to the meeting said studies are expected to be finalized soon. The committee today discussed the budget of the ministry of public works in the presence of minister Ali Harajli.
Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks with the British ambassador to Lebanon David Maclenin at the government palace. After the meeting, Maclenin explained the European Union will activate its role in pushing the peace process in the region forward. Britain now presides over the EU. An EU delegation is expected in the region and in Lebanon next month.
The premier also held discussions with a number of ministers and deputies reiterating his position on the necessity of holding municipal and mayoral elections on time.
Meanwhile, Hariri will head cabinet's session which will be held tomorrow morning at the government palace. Top on the agenda of talks are 28 clauses. Minister of Information Bassem Al-Sabaa is expected to brief ministers on the necessity of activating the role of the national audio-visual media council. Other media issues such as the subject of qualifying state-run Tele Liban to satellite broadcasting will also be discussed in tomorrow's session. After the meeting, the ministerial committee in charge of the media file will hold a meeting headed by Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr to continue discussions on the media file and the recent developments in light of their latest discussions.
Trade and Economy minister Yassin Jaber today held talks with a delegation of the chamber of commerce headed by Jacques Sarraf the possible creation of an Arab free trade zone and the trade exchange between Lebanon and the Arab world. Jaber stressed the importance of an Arab free trade zone in the region. The meeting also tackled trade exchange with Arab countries especially Syria and Egypt. Jaber also stressed the necessity of opening Arab markets to Lebanese industries and agricultural goods. For his part, the head of the chamber of commerce hoped the year 1998 will be the year of exportation in Lebanon.
Beirut's International Airport will be without radar for the next two weeks as its entire radar system is moved to a new terminal. Lebanese civil aviation director Riad Abdullah today said that until the radar is re-established around January 27. Lebanese newspapers today quoted Abdullah as saying aviation authorities will impose restrictions to space out take-offs and landings.
The new terminal was inaugurated last month by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri under a 500-million-dollar modernization plan but will not be open to passengers until the beginning of February. In addition to arrival and departure facilities, the new airport complex will house a hotel, a bank, and a chain of restaurants and cultural centers.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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