President Elias Al-Hrawi this morning received Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on a number of recent developments in the country. The two leaders also held consultations on the main files and issues that are currently under discussions. After the one-hour meeting, Prime Minister Hariri did not make any statements to reporters at the palace.
President Hrawi later received Deputy Shaker Abu-Sleiman. The issue of illicitly gained wealth topped their talks. Abu-Sleiman later said the justice and administration committee would soon hold a meeting to discuss the justice ministry's project. On the new scales and salary increases, Abu-Sleiman said the project was not fair to the employees contracted by the Information Ministry. The follow-up committee for these employees will hold a general assembly meeting on Monday to discuss future action following the government's failure to increase their pay under the new public sector salary scales bill.
The ministerial committee charged with discussing a justice ministry bill to combat illicitly gained wealth by senior officials and public sector employees will hold its meeting tomorrow in Beirut. The committee, headed by Deputy Premier Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr, includes nine other ministers.
During cabinet's last session, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri called on the committee to finalize discussions before cabinet's next session on Wednesday. For his part, Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa announced Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara held consultations with UN experts and a number of judicial figures in the country before disclosing the details of the bill. Upon its ratification, the project will be sent to parliament for further study.
The bill 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. But 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, and fining in addition to the publication of the verdict in the mass media.
Public secondary school teachers today held a second day of strike to protest the government's failure to meet their demands for improved pensions under the new public sector pay scales project that was ratified earlier this week by the Lebanese parliament. More than 5,500 teachers began their two-day strike yesterday forcing students at more than 190 public secondary schools across the country to stay at home.
The Public School Teachers Bureau today held a meeting to further study the endorsed bill. The bureau's president, Fouad Saab, earlier described the new legislation as unjust. Teachers are demanding that their end-of-service payments be calculated on the basis of 100% of their last full salaries instead of the 85% ratified by parliament.
President-elect General Emil Lahhoud today received a high-ranking official at the Japanese foreign ministry who was accompanied by Japan's ambassador to Lebanon. The Japanese official congratulated Lahhoud on his election as the country's next head of state. The president-elect also received today a number of congratulatory messages from Canadian, Austrian, and Australian officials.
Lahhoud later held talks with a delegation of American archbishops accompanied by Archbishop Rolan Abu-Jawdeh. The delegation extended their best wishes for Lebanon's new president. The head of the delegation, who also presides over the international policy committee at the American Catholic Church, said the archbishops are on an inspection visit to Lebanon that will help them formulate plans for future cooperation between the Catholic Church in the US and that in Lebanon.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir today reportedly expressed his optimism concerning the upcoming phase awaited by all the Lebanese people. Sfeir also hoped president-elect General Emil Lahhoud all success especially in preserving and reforming the country's institutions.
The Maronite Patriarch's statements were reported by Deputy Rshaid Al-Khazen who visited him at Bkirki today. Al-Khazen also expressed his support to the implementation of the justice ministry's bill to combat illicitly gained wealth. Also at Bkirki today, Deputy Nuhad Saayd hoped after talks with the Maronite Patriarch that balanced development will be achieved in the country during the upcoming phase.
The US ambassador to Lebanon, David Satterfield today held talks with Acting Finance Minister Fouad Al-Sanyoura. Satterfield later told reporters he discussed with the Finance Minister parliament's endorsement of the new public sector pay scales law. Their meeting also tackled next year's state budget and the general economic situation in the country.
On the recent security developments in Saida, Satterfield said this is an internal Lebanese matter. For his part, Sanyoura also held talks today Sudan's ambassador to Lebanon on issues related to bilateral relations between the two countries.
The head of the Middle East Department at the Japanese Foreign Ministry today hoped progress achieved up to now in Lebanon would continue under the presidency of the upcoming head of state, General Emil Lahhoud. The Japanese official also praised the huge strides and accomplishments achieved in the country. He was speaking after talks with the Secretary General of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, Zafer Al-Hasan.
The Japanese high-ranking official also expressed his country's willingness to cooperate with Lebanon in all possible ways, especially in the fields of investment and electricity. Discussions also centered on the recent Wye Plantation Summit and the regional developments in the Mideast peace process.
The follow-up committee for Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails announced some 23 freed prisoners were today employed at the OGERO institution following a decision by the Lebanese government. The committee's spokesman, Ahmad Safa, described the move as an implementation of a promise made by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri when he received a number of Lebanese detainees at the Hariri residence in Majdelyoun shortly after they were freed through the Kfar Falous border crossing under a swap operation with Israel earlier this year. Safa hoped the move would include all other freed detainees, considering this as a reward for their courage and for the sacrifices they made for the sake of their country and its liberation.
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