Cabinet meets this evening at the Baabda presidential palace. Top on the agenda of talks will be the Justice Ministry bill on illicitly gained wealth. Government sources expect ministers will ratify the project during the session. The bill aims at combating illicitly gained wealth by senior government officials and public sector employees.
Cabinet will also discuss today Israel's theft of rich soil from areas in the occupied zone. Israeli bulldozers and trucks have been scooping hundreds of tons of top soil from fertile areas in the zone and transporting the earth to Northern Israel for agricultural purposes.
The meeting today will be headed by President Elias Al-Hrawi and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and the ministers.
President-elect General Emil Lahhoud received Syrian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Tlas. The Syrian top official was accompanied by a high-ranking military delegation. The Syrian delegation hoped Lahhoud all success in his upcoming mission. They also reiterated their country's ongoing support to Lebanon and its people in all fields.
Lahhoud also held talks with deputies Ali Al-Khalil, Qabalan Issa Al-Khoury and Shaker Abu-Sleiman. Also among the visitors of Lahhoud were the Moldavian Deputy Foreign Minister, the ambassadors of UAE, Canada, and Greece, and the Ukrainian charge d'affairs in Lebanon. They all extended their countries' congratulations for Lahhoud on his upcoming presidency.
President Elias Al-Hrawi and president-elect General Emil Lahhoud are expected to begin a series of meetings in preparation for Lahhoud's official accession to the presidency of the Lebanese republic on November 24. Hrawi's term in office ends on November 23.
The meetings are to start next week according to Agriculture Minister Shwaki Fakhoury. Fakhoury was talking to reporters after meeting President Hrawi at Baabda.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri will head to Paris tomorrow for talks with French President Jacques Chirac and a number of high-ranking officials there. Discussions are expected to center on the latest developments in the region especially after the signing of the Wye River Accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Hariri will also hold consultations on expected US moves in the region aimed at activating the Syrian-Lebanese tracks in the peace process. The Lebanese premier is then scheduled to visit Cairo on Sunday to hold similar talks with Egyptian leaders and officials.
Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz sent messages to the United Nations, the Security Council, and the European Union calling on their countries to pressure Israel to stop its theft of southern fertile soil. Boueiz added these activities come under the framework of daily aggressive Israeli practices against the citizens of the South.
The foreign minister also included in his letters the negative effect of such practices on the southern earth. These aggressive activities will also harm the environment and increase the suffering of the southerners most of whom live from working in the land, Boueiz added.
Diplomatic sources at Boustros Palace revealed Boueiz sent instructions to Lebanon's ambassador to the UN, Samir Mubarak to hand UN chief Kofi Annan and the current president of the Security Council messages stressing the dangerous effect of these Israeli practices. The sources added Lebanon's ambassador to Vienna, Samir Hobeika, was also charged of handing a third letter in the same regard to the Austrian Foreign Minister whose country currently presides over the European Union.
It seems that relations between Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt are moving back to normal. Their friendly ties were severed over disagreements regarding the war-displaced file and its funding. Jumblatt late yesterday visited the premier at the Grand Saray. Jumblatt later hoped the government house would preserve its position and power.
The War Displaced Minister added the ministry will not pay compensations for the war displaced before the next government is formed. Jumblatt stressed Hariri's government under President Elias Al-Hrawi's term paid considerable efforts in ensuring the return of more displaced people to their different villages and towns.
Israeli occupying forces continued their aggressions on southern areas by shelling the hills surrounding Jisr Al-Qaaqaeyyah, the road extending between Alman and Deir Seryan, and the riverbanks of Litani. More than 40 shells also targeted the area between Touline and Qabreekha.
In another development, Israeli warplanes late yesterday carried out an air raid on the outskirts of the villages of Shakra and Majdel Selem. Heavy air-to-ground missiles were used in the attack.
Meanwhile, Lebanon is preparing to file a complaint to the international monitoring group over Israeli violations of the truce agreement.
Syrian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Tlas stressed Israel stepped up its hard-line practices against the Lebanese in South Lebanon and the Arabs in occupied territories following its signing of the Wye Agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Tlas added the agreement, which presents more concessions to the Israelis, is a disgrace. The Syrian Defense Minister was speaking in Lebanon yesterday where he held a meeting with president-elect General Emil Lahhoud. He also called for more Arab unity against Israeli threats.
Tlas added Syria wants real peace based on justice and comprehensiveness providing everyone with security and stability. He added peace cannot prevail in the region unless all Arab lands are liberated according to international resolutions and the land-for-peace formula.
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