Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today started talks with a number of Egyptian officials in Cairo. He met his Egyptian counterpart Kamal Al-Janzouri, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, and the head of the Arab League Dr. Issmat Abdel Majid.
Hariri's discussions are focusing on the stalled Mideast peace process and also on improving economic ties in light of agreements signed between Lebanon and Egypt to step up trade and boost economic cooperation.
Hariri arrived late yesterday in the Egyptian capital for a three-day official visit after a visit to Paris. The Lebanese Premier is expected to meet Wednesday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Discussions are to center on recent developments in the Arab world.
Following his meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in Cairo this morning, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters discussions centered on a number of Arab issues and bilateral ties between the two countries. Moussa noted the strong historical relations between Cairo and Beirut. He also reiterated the two countries pursue many common interests.
Moussa also told reporters his meeting with Hariri tackled the Wye River Accord recently signed between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Egyptian Foreign Minister said Israeli policy is not directed towards peace and does not respect signed agreements. He added the implementation of the Wye Agreement would determine future steps in the Mideast peace process.
The Egyptian official also reiterated the necessity of kick-starting the Syrian-Lebanese tracks in the peace process.
Upon his arrival in Cairo yesterday, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri gave a lecture at the University of Cairo stressing peace is the strategic choice for both Lebanon and Syria.
He also reaffirmed there will be no peace until Israeli returns the Golan Heights to Syria and implements UN Resolution 425 which calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa.
In his lecture, the Lebanese premier also spoke about the stalled Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the peace process, stressing on a comprehensive and just agreement based on the principle of land-for peace. The premier reiterated Lebanon and Syria's willingness to resume negotiations on the Lebanese-Syrian tracks from where they left off and to sign a peace treaty with Israel within a period of three months if it withdraws from occupied territories in both countries.
Syrian Spokesman Jibran Kourieh issued a presidential statement in which President Hafez Al-Assad expressed appreciation for the national role played by Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi during the various tough stages that the country went through. The statement also praised Hrawi's courageous stances during his nine-year term.
President Hrawi and First Lady Mona were yesterday the lunch guests of the Syrian President in Damascus. Kourieh's statement added Hrawi and Assad discussed the course of cooperation and coordination between their countries. It also said the two presidents expressed their satisfaction with efforts at forging civil peace and boosting the role of constitutional institutions in Lebanon. Analysts said Hrawi's visit reiterates solidarity and constant coordination between the two countries.
The head of the Political Department at the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Farouq Al-Kaddoumi, will arrive in Beirut tomorrow for a two-day visit. Kaddoumi will hold talks with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz at Boustros Palace.
Their talks are to focus on the recent developments in the region in light of the Wye Plantation Agreement and its reflections and expected outcome on the Middle East peace process.
Austria's Foreign Minister is expected to visit the country next Saturday. His visit to Lebanon comes as part of a tour in the region that will also take him to Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian self-rule areas.
Diplomatic sources said the Austrian official is carrying a number of ideas that he will present during his Mideast tour. These ideas include the necessity of resuming the Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the peace process.
The Austrian Foreign Minister, who will hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart and a number of officials here, is also expected to raise the issue of Lebanon's signing of a European partnership agreement suspended for two years now. Austria now presides over the European Union.
Israeli heavy artillery today shelled western areas in Al-Sheik Mountain, the village of Ain Ataa, Wadi Meemes, Mazraat Ain Fjour, Zemrayya, and Jwayya. The bombardment also reached the hills of Jabal Ad-Dahr, Qelya, and Srayra in the Western Bekaa. More than 50 shells fell in the area.
Meanwhile, Israeli helicopters raided the area of Khalwat with air-to-ground missiles causing material loss and damage in some houses. Israeli warplanes this morning carried out intensive flights over Nabatieh and the Iqlim Al-Touffah Mountain Ridges.
Teachers at public high schools today began a nationwide open-ended strike. Teachers are demanding that end-of-service payments be based on 100% of their final salaries. The 3,685 teachers are also demanding a 60% pay raise for those working full-time and that teachers on contract have their hourly rate increased according to the new public sector pay scales project.
The strike forced some 65,000 students to stay at home. General assemblies were also held across the country whereby teachers continued discussions on their situation and studied future action.
Meanwhile, primary school teachers are expected to hold a two-day strike tomorrow requesting that 3,000 of their members who hold university degrees or teaching diplomas be classified as secondary school teachers.
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