President-elect General Emil Lahhoud this morning visited President Elias Al-Hrawi at the Baabda palace. The two leaders held their first round of talks as part of a series of meetings that are expected to follow. The meeting today comes under the framework of discussing the hottest political, economic, financial, and social files in the country.
At noon, the meeting ended with Lahhoud leaving the palace without making statements to reporters. This is Lahhoud's second official visit to the presidential palace since his election as the country's next head of state.
The president-elect earlier held similar meetings with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and top officials in the government.
Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara is expected to complete the final draft of the project on illicit wealth tomorrow after including all introduced amendments to it. The minister will be also consulting with President Elias Al-Hrawi on the final outcome before referring the bill to parliament.
The Justice Ministry bill was ratified late yesterday by the Lebanese Cabinet. The project aims at combating illicitly gained wealth by senior government officials and public sector employees.
During the session, President Elias Al-Hrawi proposed the introduction of some amendments to the project to include the country's top officials.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri is expected to arrive in Paris later today for a private visit that will last until Sunday. During his stay at the French capital, Hariri will hold talks and consultations with President Jacques Chirac and other top officials there on recent regional and international developments.
The Lebanese premier is then scheduled to leave for Cairo for a three-day official visit where he will meet Egyptian Leader Hosni Mubarak and hold talks with his counterpart, Kamal Al-Janzouri. Also in Egypt, Hariri is expected to give a lecture in the University of Cairo discussing the regional situation.
Ten days from now, the premier will be back in Beirut to open a boulevard, which will be given the name of Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.
Cabinet last night adopted a Foreign Ministry proposal to file a complaint to the UN Security Council over Israel's theft of rich soil from different areas in the occupied zone to be transported to Northern Israel for agricultural purposes. Cabinet also decided that similar contacts would be made with European Union countries, major world capitals, and UNIFIL troops in South Lebanon in a bid to stop this kind of aggression.
The issue was raised by House Speaker Nabih Berri and closely followed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. Hariri will tackle the subject during his expected talks with French President Jacques Chirac and Egyptian Leader Hosni Mubarak.
Israeli attacks today continued unabated on occupied areas in South Lebanon. Heavy shelling also targeted the villages of the Western Bekaa, intensifying over Jib Swayd, Rahrah, Ezzieh, Hennieh, and the outskirts of Majdel Zoun, Zibkeen, and Jbal Al-Botom. More than 30 shells fell on the area. The Israeli bombardment included the hills of Jabal Al-Dahr, Mazraat Lucy and the outskirts of Meemes and Qelya. Jabal Al-Rafii in Iqlim Al-Touffah was also hit today.
For its part, the Lebanese resistance shelled Israeli outposts in the area in retaliation to the morning attacks. The resistance also announced one of its groups attacked the positions of Blat and Radar, scoring direct hits in the operation.
Syrian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Tlas today reiterated the right of the Lebanese resistance to defend their country until all its occupied territories are liberated. Tlas added the resistance embodies the essence of sacrifice and courage in its daily struggle against the Israeli occupation.
The Syrian top official was speaking during a ceremony held at the Assad Library in Damasucs. The event was organized by the committee supporting the Lebanese resistance under the title of "The time of resistance has come".
Every Thursday, mothers of Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails hold sit-ins in front of International Red Cross offices around the country. This week, the sit-in was held in Tyre. Mothers, sisters, and wives stood for hours holding the pictures of their loved ones. Many of them could not hold their tears.
The mothers also handed UNIFIL's official spokesman in the South a memorandum including the names of their loved ones who are detained in the Khiam prison and in jails inside Israel. The memo called for the immediate release of all detained youngsters, women, old, and sick. It also called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop its systematic physical and psychological torture of those prisoners.
Representatives of the follow-up committee for Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails and a number of social and party figures in the city were also there.
The first batch of Indian troops to work under United Nations Interim Forces in South Lebanon early this morning arrived at Beirut's International Airport. 135 officers and soldiers arrived as part of a battalion including around 670 members.
The Indian battalion will replace its Norwegian counterpart following Norway's recent decision to pull out its troops from the South for internal reasons. Norwegian soldiers will leave the country before the end of this year.
A UNIFIL source said the Indian Battalion will be mainly working in the central sector of the zone Israel occupies in the South.
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