Israeli bulldozers are still scooping hundreds of tons of rich dark soil from different areas of the occupation zone. The top quality soil is being systematically stolen by the Israelis and dumped into the Jewish state for the benefit of farmers in the Northern Galilee.
House Speaker Nabih Berri earlier sent messages for the United Nations, the Arab League and world parliaments calling for the necessity of pressuring Israel to cease such activities. But soil is not being stolen only from al-Marj area, as Berri's report suggested. It seems that Israel has now increased the range of its theft to include the area of Marj Al-Khiam in Marjayoon.
During the last three weeks, Israeli trucks have been transporting the earth to the area of New Metulla close to the Metulla Settlement in the Jewish State. The soil is being used for agricultural purposes in a number of new plantations there.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and his Syrian counterpart Mahmud Al-Zohbi today headed the joint Syrian-Lebanese economic committee meeting in Damascus. The committee is discussing a possible mechanism for implementing an agreement of free exchange of industrial products between the two countries.
The accord also stipulates that custom duties be decreased by 25% starting the beginning of next January. Customs between the two countries are expected to be totally eliminated in a period of four years. The meeting today was attended by concerned ministers and officials from both countries.
Also in Damascus, the Lebanese premier yesterday held talks with Syrian Vice President, Abdel Halim Khaddam.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is expected to arrive in Beirut shortly in a bid to extend his country's official congratulations to president-elect General Emil Lahhoud. During his visit, Moussa will hold talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz.
Foreign Ministry officials last night said Moussa is also expected to brief Lebanese leaders and officials on the latest outcome of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ongoing mediation between Syria and Turkey over their latest crisis.
Former government official Amin Al-Hafez today praised the accomplishments made during President Elias Al-Hrawi's term in office. Al-Hafez expressed optimism about the upcoming period. He also voiced his appreciation of the stances taken by President Hrawi describing them as highly nationalistic.
Al-Hafez expected more disappointment and danger would result from the Wye Plantation Accord that was recently reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians under US sponsorship. He added Lebanon and Syria will not restart peace negotiations with Israel expect from where they left of. He also stressed the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the Mideast peace process.
The follow-up committee for employees contracted by the Information Ministry today held a general assembly meeting to present a memorandum of their demands following the government's refusal to keep its promise to increase their pay under the new salary scales and increases.
The head of the Lebanese News Agency, Rafik Shlala revealed that Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa has referred a proposal in this regard to cabinet following discussions he held with the follow-up committee.
Speakers stressed the contracted employees' rights in benefiting from the new public sector pay scales project. They also called on the government to give them pay raises similar to those given to ministry employees. Parliament last Wednesday approved the project but did not include in it any pay raises for contracted employees.
House Speaker Nabih Berri and the President of the Lebanese University Assaad Diab today signed an agreement aimed at documenting and mechanizing the minutes of parliamentary sessions held between the years 1924 and 1998.
House Speaker Berri told reporters the project costs some 200,000 US dollars. It is expected to be carried out in a period of 10 months. Berri also said parliament is to work on the re-establishment of a library to be used by all MPs.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nassrallah Boutros Sfeir today received at Bkirki a delegation of Lebanese parties and Palestinian groups. Discussions centered on the Wye River Agreement signed between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat.
The delegation discussed with Sfeir the outcomes of such an accord and its reflections on Lebanon and the region. The parties considered the agreement as an extension to the Oslo Accord leading to more surrender and shame.
The Greenpeace Mediterranean Office in Beirut criticized Lebanese authorities for planning to dump organic wastes in the Beqaa Valley "sanitary landfill" near the village of Bar Elias. In a press release, the group added such a practice in the landfill, which is currently under construction, could pollute groundwater reservoirs.
The municipality of Bar Elias invited Greenpeace to inspect the area. During the tour, Fouad Hamdan, Lebanon campaigner of Greenpeace Mediterranean, said: " Municipalities all over Lebanon are worried about the negative health and environmental impact of the planned landfills near Bar Elias, Baalbeck, Duwair in the South and Akkar in the North."
The new "sanitary landfills" are to be financed by a World Bank loan of 55 million US dollars. Greenpeace appealed to the Lebanese authorities, to the World Bank and to all concerned municipalities to learn from the tragic mistakes done by Sukleen in the Naameh landfill, which is an ecological time bomb.
Greenpeace opposes the dumping of hazardous and toxic waste. Only non-recyclable, non-compostable and non-toxic wastes can be landfilled, especially in Lebanon where the geology is mainly made of sand and fractured rocks with rich water reservoirs underneath.
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