Parliament today ratified the draft 1998 state budget. This morning, deputies continued discussing the clauses of the budget law one by one. After 11 parliamentary sessions and 40 hours of discussions, parliament this morning finalized all but five of the law's clauses. But tonight's session was held for that purpose because the budget law needed to be ratified before the Eid Al-Fiter holiday. House Speaker Nabih Berri today banned TV stations in the country to broadcast this morning's session live in a bid to fasten the pace of discussions. Parliament also deleted the following clauses of the law: 34, 39, 42, and 44. But there were also suggestions by some deputies to add some new clauses to the draft law. The 998 budget carries an expected 37.46 percent deficit of income against expenditure.
During his last Ramadan reception yesterday, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri stressed the role of the Lebanese youth in the development of their country. Hariri was speaking to members of the Lebanese Youth Association who were invited to his dinner last night in Kraytem. He also stressed their role in the upcoming municipal mayoral elections saying this was a chance for them to be active participants in serving their towns and their whole country. The premier also reiterated his government's support to the Lebanese University hoping it will become one of the best universities in the country.
A man was killed today when a bomb exploded near his truck in South Lebanon. An Israeli allied militia source in the South said the incident occurred when a pick-up truck on the road between Roum and Anan in Jezzine.
The victim, Mtanious Al-Helou, was not immediately identified. No group claimed immediate responsibility for the attack.
Israel today shelled the village of Mashghara in the Western Bekaa wounding one woman, Hiam Yassin. The shelling also caused damage in five houses in the village. Lebanon is expected to file a complaint to the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group in this regard. Israeli shells also fell on other villages of the Western Bekaa. The Lebanese resistance later attacked the Israeli outpost in Toumat Niha. The Israeli allied militia radio reported the shelling but denied any casualties.
Also today, the commander of the Lebanese army, General Emile Lahhoud visited Western Bekaa to inspect Lebanese army positions there. Lahhoud said Israel's proposals to withdraw from the South were only aimed at dissolving the Lebanese Resistance and intensifying the position of Israel and its allied militia in the South. Those suggestions, Lahhoud added, only constitute part of the solution and not the whole solution. He also said the Israeli proposals linked to security guarantees were only aimed at avoiding all responsibilities towards the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace. The Lebanese army leader reiterated Lebanon's insistence on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon under the UN Security Council Resolution 425.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today announced his government is ready to withdraw from Lebanon if it was assured that the Lebanese Resistance will neither approach the international borders nor launch Katyusha rockets on Israeli settlements. Netanyahu added only in this case will the Israeli government agree to the withdrawal. Responding to a question concerning Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights, the Israeli premier said his government was ready to conduct negotiations with Syria on the basis of returning only part of the Golan. Netanyahu claimed returning all the Golan to Syria may threaten Israel's borders rendering them unsafe. The UN Security council Resolution 242 calls for Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights originally belonging to Syria.
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