After last night's parliamentary session which was dedicated to the government's defense of its position and suggestions regarding the draft 1998 state budget, parliament today started discussing the law clause by clause. The session which is the eighth since the beginning of budget discussions was opened at 10:30 this morning headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by a number of ministers and deputies. The house ratified the first clause of the law and suspended discussions on the second clause. Discussions mainly centered on treasury bills and national debt. The sixth clause of the law gives the government the right to issue treasury bills and this was highly discussed today and subject to a number of different suggestions. Parliament will meet again later tonight to continue discussing the remaining clauses. Discussions will stop during the Eid Al-Fiter Holiday or the Moslem Feast of Fast Breaking which is expected to start on Wednesday or Thursday. During last night's session, prime minister Hariri called for more cooperation between government and parliament in a bid to resolve the economic problems facing the country.
Upon his arrival at Beirut's International Airport today from Nicosia, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir said President Elias Al-Hrawi's proposal for an optional civil marriage law was neither rejected nor approved by the Maronite Church in Bkirki. Sfeir also hoped Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's bid to find a solution to the war displaced problems will be successful. The Maronite Patriarch today returned from Nicosia after a two-day meeting of the spiritual leaders of Christian churches in the Middle East organized by the Nicosia-based Middle East Council of Churches.
Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi today sent his presidential envoy Hijjat Al-Islam Aftahi to Syria. The Iranian envoy is also expected tomorrow in Beirut. Aftahi will hand Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad and Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi two letters from their Iranian counterpart. The presidential envoy said in Tehran President Khatemi was serious about boosting bilateral relations with all the Arab states. Sources close to the Iranian presidency said Khatemi will is expected to deliver a very important message to the Arab and Islamic worlds soon. The message is especially dedicated to the thinkers of these countries wherein Khatemi presents and explains his open-minded views. Meanwhile, the Iranian parliament speaker Mohammed Nateq Nouri will visit Syria and Beirut next week along with a delegation of Iranian parliamentarians and ministers.
The Italian ambassador to Lebanon Carlo Calia today visited President Elias Al-Hrawi at his presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on the recent developments in the region and the Mideast peace process. Hrawi earlier received a delegation from the Alumni of Law Graduates in the North headed by lawyer Badawi Hanna. After the meeting, the delegation expressed support to president Hrawi's proposal for an optional civil marriage law.
The head of the delegation said such a law would help reduce all sectarian differences between the Lebanese and facilitate national reconciliation. Hanna also stressed the necessity of abolishing political sectarianism in the country.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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