News from Beirut January 19  1998 ...Search

Israel frees one Lebanese prisoner as shelling continues in the South

Israel today released one Lebanese detainee after 13 years of imprisonment in Israeli jails. Abdel Karim Mohammed Abdel Latif Ali was handed to representatives of the International Red Cross Committee on the Lebanese-Israeli borders. Lebanese police today said Ali who was born in the year 1969 in North Lebanon was detained by Israeli forces on charges of participating in an anti-Israeli operation in South Lebanon during the year 1985. He is also said to have been a member of National Lebanese Resistance Front. Around 200 Lebanese are still detained in Israeli prisons in and outside the Jewish state without trial and under bad health conditions.

Meanwhile, Israel this afternoon shelled the outskirts of Sojod and Raihan in Iqlim Al-Touffah. Earlier, Israeli shells fell on the Al-Aqida area in Nabatieh Al-Faouqa causing damage in the house of Jaafar Toufaily. Israel also shelled last night the Jabaal Al-Rafii mountain in Iqlim Al-Touffah.

The Lebanese resistance today announced it carried out attacks on Israeli forces to the South of the Sojod post. The statement added the resistance also attacked the Israeli Sojod outpost itself and scored direct hits. In  another development, the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is expected to convene tomorrow at the United Nations Interim Forces headquarters in Naqoura. The international panel will look into a Lebanese complaint filed over Israeli shelling of the Southern village of Jarjouaa which caused damage in the area. Israel also lodged three complaints over alleged truce violations.

Hrawi stresses his civil marriage suggestion is only voluntary

President Elias Al-Hrawi today reportedly stressed his proposal to introduce amendments to the personal status law springs from bid to legitimize "voluntary" civil marriage in Lebanon. Hrawi was quoted as saying he will present his proposal to parliament after budget discussions are completed. In the same regard the president today received a phone call from self-exiled Christian leader Remone Edde. Edde voiced support for Hrawi's call regarding voluntary civil marriage stressing the necessity of  transferring the authority on the issue from religious courts to civil courts, a case he said was followed by most Arab countries. Edde during the 1950's had also called for a ratification of a new law for personal status.

Hrawi's support earlier this year for amending the constitution to allow voluntary civil marriage has been heavily criticized and even rejected by some Muslim figures in Lebanon. Hrawi based his proposal on the need to end sectarian and religious divisions in the country, claiming the law would help dissolve both problems.

Parliament holds 98 budget session tomorrow

Parliament is scheduled to begin holding sessions tomorrow to discuss and ratify the draft 1998 state budget law. Further discussions and consultations are expected to be held especially on the issue of  introducing amendments to Table 9 proposing increased road taxes and car registration fees. Parliamentary sources today said there was a possibility of proposing new suggestions on ways to decrease mecanique fees. Some members of the parliamentary budget and finance committee also convened today and proposed reducing car registration fees and road taxes on cars whose manufacture dates back to 15 years. Forty deputies are expected to participate in tomorrow's discussions and consultations.

Hariri holds talks with ICRC representative and government officials

Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks with the representative of the International Red Cross Committee in Lebanon Jean Jacques Fresard. Discussions centered on the recent developments in discussions for a possible swap of Israeli deaths in the failed Ansariyeh commando operation with Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails. After the meeting, Fresard said the premier gave him a message, the contents of which he did not want to reveal. Fresard stressed his mission was not an easy one adding it has no relationship with today's release of the Lebanese detainee Abdel Karim Ali.

The head of the ICRC in Lebanon also said the released prisoner was freed as a result of his ailing health condition.

The premier also discussed with a number of ministers and deputies the possibility of ratifying the draft 1998 state budget in tomorrow's parliamentary session. After the different meetings, some deputies reported the government?s readiness to all kinds of discussions on the budget law.

Hariri was also quoted as saying he was not against introducing amendments to Article 9 of the 1998 state budget law but reportedly stressed the necessity of keeping the budget deficit within the agreed upon 37% range.

The premier received deputies Mansour Ghanem Al-Boun, Kabaln Issa Al-Khouri, Antoine Haddad, Khaled Al-Daher, Misbah Al-Ahdab, Joubran Tawk, Wajih Al-Baarini, and Khaled Saab. He also held discussions with a delegation from the Armenian Bloc in parliament whose members voiced support for most of the clauses and articles of the budget law with some opposition. Hariri also discussed war displaced problems with Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa in the presence of deputy Aymen Shoucair.

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