In an interview with the Lebanese magazine Al-Hawadeth, President Elias Al-Hrawi said nine years of presidency are enough adding he wants neither the extension nor the renewal of his term. Hrawi also welcomed any new president elected by parliament saying presidential elections are in parliament's mandate. Hrawi who was interviewed by the head of the editors' syndicate Melhem Karam also expressed satisfaction with the accomplishments of the country's reconstruction efforts up to now. But Hrawi hoped the reconstruction drive would reach all Lebanese territories adding that Beirut today is very different than the past. Responding to a question, the president also stressed the importance of finding solutions to the problems of the war displaced. But he reiterated the problem is financial and not political.
The parliamentary finance and budget committee today continued finalizing discussions on the draft 1998 state budget. The committee held a meeting last night in the presence of Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri. Sources close to the meeting said discussions are expected to be finalized within the coming hours; i.e., 17 days before the end of the constitutional period.
The law will them be handed to parliament for studying its ratification. Today, the committee's discussions headed by deputy Khalil Al-Hrawi centered on Agenda 9 of the law which deals with taxation mainly decreasing taxes on car registration fees.
Meanwhile, the justice and administration parliamentary committee today ratified some of the clauses of the draft law which calls for the establishment of two doctors' syndicates, one in the North and the other in the capital. Other clauses of the draft law will be discussed in another session of the committee scheduled for next Monday.
At the government palace today, Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri received a number of committees from Lebanon's educational sector. He received a joint delegation from the teachers' office and the Lebanese University. The delegation handed the premier a memorandum explaining their demands. The memo called for the immediate ratification of the pay scales draft law. It also demanded an increase in the budget allocated to the Lebanese University. The delegates later described their meeting with the premier was positive adding he promised that their demands will be further studied by Education Minister John Obeid and the head of the education committee in parliament Bahiyaa Al-Hairi.
Prime minister Hariri later received a delegation of the lawyers' syndicate in the North. Discussions centered on the project to build a justice palace in the area. The premier also met the head of the General Labor Confederation Ghaneim Al-Zoghbi, the Bekaa Mufti Sheikh Khalil Al-Mayss, Belgium's ambassador to Lebanon, and a judicial delegation headed by Justice minister Bahij Tabbra.
Lebanon began making diplomatic contacts with Arab states about the possibility of action over the violence in Algeria. Following cabinet's session yesterday, Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa quoted Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri as saying Lebanon made contacts with the secretariat of the Arab league and with some Arab capitals to study the Algerian situation, especially that Algeria played a very important role in reaching the Taef agreement that marked the end of the Lebanese war in 1990.
House Speaker Nabih Berri told reporters after his meeting with President Elias Al-Hrawi at Baabda yesterday that Lebanese contacts were aimed at establishing a committee to end the massacres in Algeria. Berri said he agreed with the president to make contacts with the Arab League and Arab parliaments to establish a committee aiming at least to contribute to the efforts of putting an end to the massacres in Algeria, even if it rejects foreign involvement.
In response, the Algerian foreign ministry summoned the Lebanese ambassador to Algeria yesterday and told him that Algeria rejected any intervention in its internal affairs. The official Algeria news agency quoted the ministry as saying during the meeting, the ambassador was reminded that Algeria rejects every interference in its internal affairs, whatever the form it takes and no matter from where it comes. About 65,000 people had been killed in Algeria since 1992 when authorities canceled a general election in which Islamic groups had taken a commanding lead. Algeria blames the death on the Islamic militants and has refused to allow international investigation or mediation.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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