News from Beirut January 9  1998 ...Search

Lebanese president receives media delegation

President Elias Al-Hrawi today held talks with a delegation of representatives of media corporations in the country. He told the delegation the government's satellite news ban was dictated by the country's national interest. Hrawi expressed sorrow over the atmosphere that accompanied the media ban in the country especially with some expressing fears on the freedom of terrestrial broadcasting. But Hrawi stressed this area will never be touched by cabinet's decision adding it only bans private television stations from broadcasting news bulletins and political programs on satellite. The president also reiterated his support for liberties in Lebanon but also for the country's national interest. He added the ban followed several broadcasts which posed problems by tarnishing the image of Lebanon abroad and harming its economic interests and thus its reconstruction drive which is basically dependent on outside investment in the country's different sectors. After meeting the president, the delegation also quoted Hrawi as saying national responsibility does not only lie on politicians but on journalists and reporters as well whose task is to ensure balance between their profession and their country's national good.

Hariri says satellite ban not a spontaneous decision

After discussions with a delegation of media representatives in Kraytem, prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri said the satellite news ban decision was studied thoroughly adding it was only taken after some stations violated the promises it had earlier made when granted the licenses to operate. The premier also said cabinet's decision was dictated by Lebanon's national interest and it's image abroad. Hariri told the delegation the government's decisions are very strict in this regard. After the meeting, one of the media delegates Simon Al-Khazen said the atmosphere of discussions was very positive adding similar meetings with the premier will follow their meeting today in a bid to continue discussions on the issue with all concerned authorities including information minister Bassem Al-Sabaa and the National Audi-Visual media council.

MEA appoints new board of directors

Lebanon's Middle East Airlines named a new board of directors today following last month's controversy over a $39 million leasing deal with Singapore Airlines. An MEA official said Mohammed Al-Hout, head of the Central Bank's real estate department, was elected as head of the company's board of directors today. The six other members included Frenchman Christian Blanc, a former Air France president and a group of Lebanese businessmen, lawyers and engineers. The Central bank, holding 99 % of the airlines, called for investigations after the local press reported the lease price exceeded the cost of buying the three second-hand Airbus planes. MEA in December secured better terms for the deal after talks in London with the current owners of the leased planes, a new company which bought them from Singapore Airlines after the initial deal with MEA.

Overshot shells or rockets hit Israel close to Lebanon border

Shells or rockets hit a region of Israel close to the Israeli-Lebanese border yesterday but caused no victims or damage. According to Israeli army officials, the fire was directed at Israeli positions in Southern Lebanon, overshot targets and fell in the Finger of the Galilee region. Ambulances and army patrols were dispatched to the region to evaluate the situation.

There were no immediate indications of the source of fire.

Indirect negotiations continue for Israel-Lebanon swap

A representative of the International Red Cross committee in Lebanon yesterday held discussions with prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri over a possible swap of the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon for Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons. Government palace officials said the ICRC Lebanon representative Jean-Jacques Fresard accepted from Hariri a response to a letter Fresard had relayed to the Lebanese prime minister last month from Israel. There was no word on the content of the letter or on the stage which negotiations had reached so far. Indirect negotiations through the ICRC have been ongoing between Lebanon and Israel for the past three months over a possible exchange. Israel wants to retrieve the remains of soldiers killed in the September five failed commando operation in the village of Ansariyeh, north of the zone Israel occupies in the South. The remains of at least one of the 12 Israeli soldiers killed in the operation were abandoned at the scene of the fighting and recovered by Hizbullah. In return, Lebanon seeks the release of Lebanese detainees at the Khiam jail, run by the Israeli allied militia in the South and other prisons inside Israel. About 150 Lebanese have been under detention without trial or charges for several years at the Khiam detention center while another 50 are held under the same conditions in jails inside the Jewish state.

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