Cabinet today held its weekly session at the Grand Saray headed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and a number of ministers. 34 clauses were on the agenda of talks. Ministers approved a number draft agreements signed with Malaysia and Azerbijan aimed at boosting bilateral investments and increasing trade and economic cooperation between Lebanon and these countries.
Ministers also discussed today the recent security developments in the southern city of Sidon. They evaluated the current security situation in the city, the security measures that have been taken, and the developments in investigations. A report by the Governor of the South, Faysal Al-Sayegh, was presented in this regard.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri stressed the role of security and judicial services in the country in preventing such crimes. The premier also reiterated the necessity of taking all necessary measures to preserve the security situation in the country.
A ministry of justice bill to combat illicitly gained wealth by senior officials and public sector employees today topped discussions during cabinet's weekly session at the Grand Saray.
Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara presented the bill to cabinet today. A committee was later formed to study the bill during a meeting to be held on Saturday morning. Hariri addressed the head of the committee, Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr, saying the committee should finalize its discussions before cabinet's next session.
The justice minister earlier disclosed the details of the bill saying it stipulates that only second-rank state employees and above must reveal their personal wealth, as well as that of their wives and minors, as soon as they are appointed.
Moreover, the bill considers illegal wealth a civil, not a criminal, offense. Punishment does not involve imprisonment, but includes returning stolen money to the treasury, confiscation of properties, fines ranging between 25 and 100 million Lebanese Liras, in addition to the publication of the verdict in the mass media.
Classes at public secondary schools were today halted as teachers held a strike to protest the end of service payments and pensions approved by parliament's session yesterday under the ratified public sector pay scales project. The Public Schools' Teachers Bureau announced the two-day strike yesterday describing the new scale of ranks and salaries as unjust.
The parliamentary legislative session yesterday decided to reduce end of service payments and pensions to 85% of salary upon retirement. The head of the bureau, Fouad Saab, called on parliament to reconsider its decision.
Saab added teachers will be holding general assemblies in all public schools to issue recommendations for further action, which might include an open-ended strike if their demands are not met.
Teachers are demanding a 90% end-of-service payment and a 100% payment if the teacher has served for 35 years in according with the original government proposal submitted to parliament.
President-elect General Emil Lahhoud today received the ambassadors of Chile, Cuba, and Armenia who carried their countries' best wishes for the new head of state. The ambassador of Vatican to Lebanon also congratulated Lahhoud on his election. He expressed his country's happiness at the consensus reached between all the Lebanese around the selection of Lahhoud as their new president.
The president-elect also received today the head of the International Red Cross Committee in Lebanon in another congratulatory visit.
Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad's son, Colonel Bashar Al-Assad, today visited the head of the Phalanges Party in Lebanon, George Saadeh. Al-Assad who arrived in Beirut yesterday formally extended his country's congratulations to president-elect General Emil Lahhoud during a visit yesterday at the Bain Militaire. He was accompanied by the head of the Syrian Forces in Lebanon, Brigadier General Ghazi Kanaan.
This is Dr Bashar Al-Assad's first public visit to the capital since he assumed political and military responsibilities in his country after the death of his elder brother, Bassel, in a car accident in January 1994.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today sent messages to a number of Arab and international figures regarding Israel's transportation of fertile Lebanese soil from the occupation zone. Berri sent letters to the house speakers of the five permanent member states at the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Arab League Secretary General Issmat Abdel Majid and a number of Arab and International parliamentarians.
Berri said in his statement the Lebanese government recently found out that Israel has been systematically stealing tons of fertile soil for almost two weeks now from the Marj area in Hasbayya and other areas in the zone Israel occupies in South Lebanon. Berri added the soil is being transported to the Northern Galilee region for agricultural purposes.
The house speaker also said residents of these Lebanese areas are daily subject to heavy Israeli shellfire and detention. Berri reiterated Lebanon's condemnation to these Israeli measures that violate all international laws and systems.
An ICRC convoy today managed to enter the Israeli-run Khiam Detention Center after a delay caused by Israel's closure of the Tibnit border crossing. The convoy carried 15 family members who were on a visit to nine of their loved ones imprisoned in Khiam.
The families had gathered this morning in front of the headquarters of the International Red Cross Committee in the village of Nabatieh. When they reached the Kfar Tibnit Border Crossing, Israeli forces and their allied militiamen prevented them from continuing their way. The families had to return to Nabatieh and waited there for two hours before they were allowed to enter Khiam following negotiations led by ICRC representatives.
The areas of Jabal Al-Dahr and the outskirts of Mazraat Ain Fjour and Meemes in the Western Bekaa today came under heavy Israeli shellfire. The bombardment originated from Israeli outposts in the villages of Ain Qenya and Wadi Abu-Qamha.
For its part, the Lebanese Resistance announced it carried out an operation against the Israeli position in Qantara, scoring direct hits in the attack.
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