Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today concludes his three-day official visit to Cairo by meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Their talks are expected to focus on bilateral relations between Lebanon and Egypt, recent developments in Mideast peace talks, and the general situation in the Arab world.
During his visit to the Egyptian capital, Hariri held meetings with his counterpart Kamal Al-Janzouri, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, Political Presidential Advisor Oussama Al-Bazz and the head of the Arab League Dr. Issmat Abdel Majid. He also gave a lecture at the University of Cairo on the night of his arrival.
The Lebanese Premier yesterday told a live interview broadcast on Orbit he and president-elect General Emil Lahhoud agreed not to disagree adding they will disappoint all those who bet on their disagreement. Hariri also said his relationship with Lahhoud has always been good.
Hariri is then expected to fly for Riyadh and then for Damascus before returning to Beirut. Hariri started his tour with a visit to the French capital where he held discussions and consultations with the French President Jacques Chirac and a number of officials there.
President Elias Al-Hrawi held talks at the Baabda presidential palace with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. Discussions centered on the recent diplomatic contacts made by Boueiz regarding Israel's theft of rich soil from different areas in the southern occupation zone.
Sources at the Foreign Ministry said Boueiz received information yesterday from New York saying that Israel stopped its transportation of soil from the buffer zone. Meanwhile, the Israeli government formally admitted Monday that civilian contractors from the northern Galilee have been systematically stealing soil from the occupation zone. A statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry said army and police were looking in the matter.
Foreign Minister Boueiz had sent letters in this regard to UN Chief Kofi Annan and officials at the Security Council, the European Union, the US, Germany, and Italy calling on them to pressure Israel to stop its new kind of aggression.
The US ambassador to Lebanon, David Satterfield, stressed that the US administration has expressed concern for the subject of Israel's theft of southern soil and its transportation to northern Israeli settlements for agricultural purposes.
Satterfield was speaking to reporters after meeting House Speaker Nabih Berri in parliament. He added Washington discussed the issue with the Israeli government. Satterfield also stressed a series of steps will be taken in this regard.
The US ambassador also held talks at the Lawyers' Syndicate on a number of judicial and constitutional issues in addition to topics related to human rights.
President-elect General Emil Lahhoud continues his meetings with Lebanese officials. His visitors reported his insistence on building the state of institutions. Lahhoud reportedly added this stems from a huge popular will.
After meeting the president-elect, former House Speaker Hussein Al-Husseini praised the qualifications of Lahhoud adding the new president will have to continue the process of national reconciliation in the country. Lahhoud also met former Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss, Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh, and Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz.
Preparations continue for the November 22 Independence Day celebrations. This year's celebrations would be special because it comes a few days before President Elias Al-Hrawi hands over the presidency of the republic to president-elect General Emil Lahhoud.
On November 24th, Lahhoud will be the new head of state after his oath session in parliament. Lahhoud and Hrawi are expected to hold more business meetings in the coming few days in preparation for the hand-over.
Teachers at the public high schools today continued a nationwide open-ended strike they began yesterday. Teachers are demanding that end-of-service payments be based on 100% of their final salaries following 25 years of service.
Meanwhile, primary and intermediary school teachers today began a two-day strike requesting that 3,000 of their members who hold university degrees or teaching diplomas be classified as secondary school teachers.
This forced more than 300,000 students in Lebanese public schools to stay at home today. General assemblies were also held in most public schools across the country whereby teachers continued discussions on their situation and studied future action.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group meets tomorrow at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura to look into a number of complaints filed by Lebanon and Israel over violations of the April 1996 Understanding. The Lebanese side to the group filed three complaints over Israeli shelling of civilian areas in the villages of Yater and Baraasheet.
Meanwhile, Israel lodged seven complaints that mainly accuse the Lebanese resistance of shelling Israeli outposts from civilian areas in South Lebanon. The panel, with delegates from the US, France, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, bans attacks to and from civilian populated areas.
The head of the political wing at the Palestinian Liberation Organization is expected to arrive in Beirut later today. During his two-day visit to the country, the Palestinian official will hold talks with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz and a number of Lebanese officials on recent developments in the region in light of the Wye Plantation Agreement and its reflections and expected outcome on the Middle East peace process. Kaddoumi earlier held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa in Damascus.
Meanwhile, the US Trade Minister will visit Beirut Friday for talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in addition to a number of officials here. His visit to Lebanon comes as part of a Mideast tour that will take him to a number of countries in the region.
Also among the visiting diplomats this week is the Austrian Foreign Minister who will arrive here Saturday for talks with Lebanese officials on the possibility of Lebanon's singing of a partnership agreement with the European Union. The visit of Austria's Foreign Minister, whose country currently presides over the EU, comes as part of a tour in the region that will also take him to Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian self-rule areas.
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