News from Beirut January 21  1998 ...Search

Shibaa receives a second batch of goods as shelling continues in the South

A second batch of supplies today arrived in Shibaa. The goods are being provided by the Council of the South. The head of the council Kabalan Kabalan said today's supplies were a continuation to those sent three weeks ago in a bid to help as many families as possible in the village. The goods were transported by Lebanese Red Cross vehicles from the village of  Nabatieh through the Kfar Tibnit border crossing and were then handed to Shibaa's two mayors who will be in charge of distributing the goods for the families of the village. Shibaa had been under Israeli siege for a period of 20 days which was lifted on January, 13. Seven residents of Shibaa are still under detained in Israeli jails. Mohammed and Khalil Hashem, Marwan Kanaan, Kamel and Huda Markeez, Oussama Nooriddine and Nadim Saab were arrested by Israeli intelligence forces on charges of contact with the Lebanese resistance in the South.

In another development today, Israeli shells fell on the outskirts of the Southern villages of Yater, Zibkin and Jbal Al-Boutom. They were launched from the Israeli posts in Tayr Harfa and Rejmaie. Meanwhile, the resistance issued a statement saying it attacked a cluster of Israeli forces around the Blat outpost inside the occupied zone scoring direct hits.

Meanwhile, the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is still discussing in Naqoura four complaints over alleged truce violations. One Lebanese complaint was filed over Israeli shelling of the village of Gargoua which caused damage in the area. Israel however lodged four complaints over alleged damage of cars and houses in the areas of Debel and Bayyada inside the zone Israel occupies in the South.

Lebanon's three leaders join Assad on memory of son's death

Lebanon's three top leaders, President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, today joined Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad in Syria on the fourth memory of his son Bassel's death. The four leaders met in the presidential palace in the coastal city of Latikia.

Diplomatic sources expected discussions to tackle bilateral relations and  recent developments in the region and the Mideast peace process. Syrian Presidential Spokesman Joubran Kourieh said the meeting was attended by Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam. Earlier, the three Lebanese top leaders arrived in the city of Kerdaha where Bassel Al-Assad's tomb lies, laying flower wreaths on the occasion of the fourth memory of his death.

Parliament continues budget discussions tonight

Parliament is expected to meet tonight to continue discussions on the draft 1998 state budget law. Sources close to parliament today said more than the agreed upon three session will be needed to complete discussions especially with the rise of the number of deputies who wish to speak during the meetings to 50 deputies. Only 17 have debated the project so far. The sources added there was also a possibility of Thursday's expected session not to be held because it might coincide with the annually scheduled dinner or Iftar held by President Elias Al-Hrawi in Baabda.

Hariri: Budget debates are democratic and mostly objective

During an Iftar or a Ramadan dinner held at Kraytem last night, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri described most of the ongoing budget discussions as democratic and objective. But the premier also said a number of deputies are trying to give a black image of our country's present and future. The dinner was attended by Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr, Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa and Immigrants Minister Talal Arslan. Mount Lebanon and Metn officials were also present including a number of  political, military and economic figures of the area. Hariri told his visitors budget discussions will continue adding some clauses of the law need further discussion and debate.

Hariri defended his government's economic policy saying the budget deficit, although high at present, ranged between 85 and 90% before his government took office. Hariri added the national debt which was estimated around 3600 billion Lebanese Liras was also accompanied by a high inflation rate. Now, the premier continues, the government is trying its best to reduce the budget deficit and the national debt mainly through increasing revenues. On another front, prime minister Hariri stressed the importance of the role of the Lebanese youth in the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections. He added this might be a good chance for them to be recruited in their country's public life. Hariri's words were followed by a conversation with his visitors which mainly centered on the current situation and possible developments of the Mount Lebanon areas.

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