At the Council of Development and Reconstruction, a loan agreement of 40 million US dollars was signed earlier this week with the Kuwaiti Fund for Development to finance the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads at the southern entrances to the capital. The agreement was signed by CDR head, Nabil Al-Jiser and the fund's director general, Bader Al-Homaidy in the presence of officials from both countries.
The project will rehabilitate the Ouzai express way and the Khaldeh-Cocody stretch and would eventually reduce traffic congestion at the southern entrances to the capital.
The signing was attended by Public Works Minister Ali Harajli who announced that the process of rehabilitating and improving road networks in the country will continue adding the government gives it a lot of attention.
Harajli thanked Kuwait's active participation in Lebanon's reconstruction drive.
The Kuwaiti Fund this week also provided Lebanon with a 32-million-dollar-grant to purchase ambulances as well as build and equip health centers and hospitals around the country. The Fund has signed more than nine loan agreements up to now with the various Lebanese sectors worth a total of 242 million US dollars and donated some 81.5 million dollars in grants to build hospitals and upgrade technical resources at several government institutions in the country.
Lebanon and Iran yesterday signed an agreement to avoid double taxation and enhance trade between the two countries. Two other pacts to resume a direct air route between Beirut and Tehran and to enhance agriculture cooperation were also signed by visiting Iranian Minister of Housing and City Construction, Ali Abdul Ali Zadah and Acting Finance Minister Fouad Al-Sanyoura, Agriculture Minister Shawki Fakhoury, and Transportation Minister Omar Miskawi.
The signing was also attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and officials from both countries. During the last two days, the joint Iranian-Lebanese Higher Committee held meetings in the country to discuss ways of boosting economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.
Minister Fakhoury said the agricultural agreement includes the exchange of agricultural products and expertise. Iran also offered to provide Lebanon with agricultural products with a discount of 30% in exchange of importing Lebanese fruits.
For his part, the finance minister said the pact to avoid double taxation between Iran and Lebanon would be in effect when it is ratified by the countries' parliaments. He added that the agreement on resuming direct air flights between Beirut and Tehran will be implemented at the beginning of 1999.
In another development, the Islamic republic has renewed its offer to rehabilitate the oil refineries of Tripoli and Zahrani that stopped operating in 1993 due to shortages of funds. Visiting Iranian Housing Minister said his country was waiting for the reply of the Lebanese government. The two refineries can refine around 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day, more than enough to cover the country's needs.
Lebanese fruits and vegetables will now be exported at discounted fees under the terms of an agreement reached this week between the Agriculture Ministry and the Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA).
The deal aims at guaranteeing faster delivery in comparison to the process of trucking these wares abroad. This way damage to produce during overland journeys can also be avoided and Lebanese agricultural products can reach countries that could never be accessed by land.
TMA chairman, Fadi Saab said the prices will only cover the cost of flights. The process of finalizing the discounts to be offered to local farmers will be decided depending on product quality and destination.
A cooperation agreement was reached between the president of the Lebanese University Asaad Diab and the vice president of the Lettoral University in France, Daniel Boucher. The pact was signed at the headquarters of LU Central Administration and was attended by a number of education figures.
LU's president said the agreement would enhance bilateral cooperation in a number of scientific fields such as chemistry and physics and environmental studies. It also includes the exchange of teachers between the two universities.
The pact, marking the 41st agreement to be signed by the state-owned institution, comes under the framework of improving the education quality offered by the Lebanese University.
For the first time in its 92-year history, the Armenian General Benevolent Union this year has chosen Beirut as the place of its bi-annual general assembly meeting. The conference grouped more than 100 Armenian delegates joining hundreds of local members. The union's 13 offices in Beirut, Antelias, Triploi, Batroun, and Zahle contribute to social, cultural, and humanitarian activities.
The group's vice president, Berge Setrakian, noted that Lebanon's hosting the conference is a sign of the country's post war recovery and stability. But selecting Beirut for the meeting was also linked to the inauguration of the new Armenian embassy in Rabieh. The newly appointed Armenian ambassador to Lebanon said during the opening the move aims at boosting ties between the two countries' peoples.
The new embassy building replaces a temporary site in Naccashe that was rented after diplomatic relations were established with Lebanon following Armenia's independence in 1991.
The Union of Arab Banks announced that the Banking Conference will be held in Beirut between November 5 and 7. The conference will tackle cooperation opportunities between Arab banks.
The union told a press conference around 200 figures will attend including economy, finance, and trade ministers of Arab states and governors of central banks and heads of banks and financial institutions.
Despite the environment ministry's constant efforts to fight illegal quarrying in the country, a number of quarries are still in operation and they constitute a major threat to Lebanon's environment. Most quarries in the country use explosives to blast the land which gives rise to a number of harmful effects especially to nature. A number of landscapes, ecosystems, and archeological sites are facing serious damage.
Environment Minister Akram Shhayyeb revealed to reporters that some officials in the country including ministers and deputies have tried to obstruct a master plan intended to organize the country's quarries.
Shhayyeb added that other countries in the world forced quarries to operate according to specified environmental and scientific criteria.
The environment minister was later this week quoted by the Lebanese daily An-Nahar as saying cabinet delayed all discussions related to the quarries file until the next governmental term. Shhayyeb reportedly added that cabinet approved his suggestion to mark the 16th of November as the Lebanese Environment Day. But will the Lebanese environmentalists have much to celebrate until then?
The Social Affairs Ministry Thursday issued a study indicating that the infant mortality rate in Lebanon witnessed a considerable decrease over the last ten years. The study also shows that the mortality rate for breast fed babies has dropped from 41 per 1000 in 1998 to 28 per 1000 in the last five years.
The ministry began working on the project in 1996 with the help of funds from the Arab League and the World Health Organization and several UN agencies. The study would help the ministry formulate new strategies aimed at improving the health sector in Lebanon.
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