News from Beirut October 20  1998 ...Search

Hrawi calls Assad amid reports of the Syrian leader's expected visit to Lebanon

President Elias Al-Hrawi late last night held talks over the phone with his Syrian counterpart, President Hafez Al-Assad. The two leaders discussed a number of regional developments that centered on Turkey's continuous threats against Syria despite yesterday's joint meeting between the two parties at the Syrian border. Hrawi and Assad also tackled the current US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian talks in Maryland at Wye Plantation. The phone call came amid reports by the Egyptian Middle East News Agency saying that President Hafez Al-Assad will soon visit Lebanon to participate in the expected Lebanese-Syrian presidential summit that will also include Lebanon's President-elect General Emil Lahhoud. But the agency did not specify a date for Assad's visit. The Syrian leader earlier announced his visit to Lebanon would probably take place in October.

Preparations continue ahead of Lahhoud's official accession to the presidency

President-elect General Emil Lahhoud continues to study the files of the upcoming phase. Lahhoud met this afternoon Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri to formulate policies and map out future priorities. Hariri earlier today reiterated to his visitors at the government palace that discussions on the next cabinet make-up are still premature adding the issue will not be tackled before November 25, when Lahhoud is scheduled to take up office officially. But Hariri did not reveal the subject of his discussions to be held with Lahhoud today. Meanwhile, sources close to House Speaker Nabih Berri reported that the speaker will soon visit the president-elect to discuss preparations ahead of Lahhoud's oath session in parliament. The president-elect today received the ambassadors of the US, Britain, France, China, Spain, and Saudi Arabia.

Parliament reelects members of its 13 committees

House Speaker Nabih Berri today headed parliament's session held to elect members in the house's general assembly and parliamentary committees. The session reelected heads and members of the 13 committees. These committees examine draft bills and law proposals before they reach parliament's general assembly. Such committees include those of finance and budget, administration and justice, security and defense, foreign affairs, and others. According to parliament's internal system, no minister can be part of a parliamentary committee and no deputy can be a member in more than two committees.

Cabinet meets tomorrow at Baabda

Cabinet is scheduled to hold its weekly session tomorrow at the Baabda presidential palace. The meeting will be headed by President Elias Al-Hrawi and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. Ministers are scheduled to discuss an agenda of 59 clauses. Among the issues to be discussed is a draft project that aims at organizing bird hunting in Lebanon and restoring balance to the Lebanese environment. Cabinet will also discuss a proposal that allows residents of the border villages not to pay water and electricity bills. A ministerial committee headed by Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr will also present a report on the subject of end-of-summer fires. Murr yesterday announced the report will present the needs of civil defense teams and will suggest raising the number of civil defense centers in all Lebanese areas in addition to buying proper equipment and three helicopters to enhance firefighting operations.

Lebanese ministerial committee discusses trade with Syria

The ministerial committee charged with discussing the exchange of industrial products between Lebanon and Syria held a meeting at the Grand Saray headed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. The session was attended by Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz, Agriculture Minister Shwaki Fakhoury, Industry Minister Nadim Salem, and Minister of Trade and Economy Yassin Jaber. The meeting discussed the procedural details of the Lebanese-Syrian trade agreement. A joint Lebanese-Syrian committee is expected to meet in Damascus during the next few days.

Israel escalates attacks on South Lebanon

Israel last night escalated its attacks against civilian areas in South Lebanon. One baby girl was injured during Israeli shelling of the village of Qelya. Israel also heavily shelled Wadi Al-Hojeir and the outskirts of Touline and Qabreekha from its outpost in Taibeh. Late in the night, bombardment targeted Wadi Slouki and the outskirts of Shakra, Majdel Selem, Qabreekha, Haddatha, and Ayta Al-Jabal originating from the Israeli position in the hill of Mhaydeeb. The attacks were accompanied by Israeli inspection flights over the villages of the central sector of the occupation zone.

In another development, the Lebanese Resistance late yesterday attacked the Israeli outpost in the hill of Qantara scoring direct hits in the operation. Late last night, the resistance also attacked the outpost of Houla.

Lebanon files two complaints to the Monitoring Group

The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is expected to meet soon at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura to look into two complaints that were recently filed by Lebanon. The first Lebanese complaint centers on Israeli shelling of civilian areas in Iqlim Al-Touffah damaging a number of houses. The Lebanese side to the group filed a second complaint over Israeli bombardment of the village of Dellafeh in the Western Bekaa. The panel, comprising delegates from Lebanon, Syria, Israel, France, and the US, bans attacks to and from civilian areas.

Norwegian UNIFIL troops prepare to hand over to Indian battalion

Indian peacekeeping troops will be deployed in South Lebanon next month in replacement of the Norwegian soldiers working under the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Due to internal reasons, Norway previously decided to reduce the numbers of its soldiers in South Lebanon by 60% starting the beginning of 1999. An Indian military team arrived in the South last week headed by Brigadier General Jayanat Qayrima who announced his troops would follow the lead of the Norwegians and would provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the residents of the region. The Indian troops will be deployed in the eastern sector of the occupied zone, the same area manned by the Norwegian battalion since 1978.

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