Israeli Defense Minster Yitzhak Mordechai today said Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon would be impossible unless the Lebanese government demonstrated it could take charge of security in the area. Touring the zone Israel occupies in the South, Mordechai confirmed comments he made in an newspaper interview last week that for the first time an Israeli defense minister had decided to respect a 1978 UN resolution calling for a pullout.
But he said in broadcast remarks that Israeli withdrawal was conditional on comprehensive security moves by Beirut. Mordechai urged Lebanon to enter into negotiations on how to respect all the agreements of resolution 425, alluding to the resolution's call for a restoration of peace and security in South Lebanon and assisting the Lebanese government to regain authority in the area.
Resolution 425, passed in 1978 after an Israeli invasion on Lebanon, calls on Israel to immediately cease military action against the integral territory of Lebanon and to withdraw its forces without delay from all Lebanese territory. In a statement on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet said Israel was prepared to accept the resolution provided an agreement could be reached with Lebanon which will ensure the security procedures required by Israel.
The international cease-fire monitoring group for south Lebanon is scheduled to meet next Monday look into two Lebanese complaints of cease-fire violations by Israel. Lebanese officials today said Beirut filed a complaint over the wounding of a Lebanese civilian Monday during an Israeli bombardment in the area of Mjdel Zoun, north of the zone Israel occupies in the South. On December 26, Lebanon filed a complaint over artillery fire by Israeli forces which damaged three houses in Majdel Zoun.
Lebanon says the incidents are violations of the April 1996 understanding between Israel and Hizbullah not to attack civilians or launch attacks from civilian areas.
The delegation of US congressmen today visited the South and met in Saida's Rest House top officials from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, including General Konorote and Timor Goksel. After the meeting, UN sources said discussions centered on issues of interest to the UNIFIL. This is the second important US-UNIFIL meting since the American ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones' visit to UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura several week ago.
Jones' visit is also the first of its kind by a US ambassador to the UN forces in a period of 14 years.
The delegation also held talks today with prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace. US congressmen of Lebanese and Arab origins stressed their congress's interest in Lebanon and expressed admiration at its development projects and overall reconstruction drive. They said their visit also aimed at studying investment opportunities in the country and encouraging US businessmen to come to Lebanon and invest in its development projects. The delegation expressed great interest and concern regarding boosting bilateral ties between the two countries.
The American delegation also met Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh and later hoped the two countries increase cooperation in this regard. They later held talks with Tourism Minister Nicola Fattoush stressing afterwards the US's support and encouragement to this important sector of the Lebanese economy. The US delegation later held talks with Minster of Trade and Economy Yassin Jaber.
President Elias Al-Hrawi today accused Israel of continuing to refusal to apply UN resolution 425 which calls on Israel's unconditional withdrawal from the South. Hrawi was speaking in his annual meeting with members of the diplomatic corps in Lebanon. Hrawi told the gathering Israel's stubborn refusal to apply resolution 425 and other international resolutions signifies not only that it is violating the decisions of the United Nations but also that the international organization has lost its role. He added the UN enforces its decisions elsewhere but it is powerless to do so in South Lebanon. He also referred to the important visits by world leaders to Lebanon this year and the international conferences Lebanon hosted.
Parliament today announced it will hold discussions on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd of this month on the draft 1998 state budget. The sessions will be broadcast live on radio and TV stations. After studying the law and ratifying it, parliament is expected to hold a legislative session.
Meanwhile, the security and defense parliamentary committee today held a meeting headed by deputy Mohsen Dalloul. Discussions centered on the latest regarding the issue of cellular phone tapping. Dalloul told the committee the subject is very dangerous but that it can neither be denied nor confirmed at this period of time. He said it was found out that 100,000 cellular lines can be tapped all together at one time.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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