For a second day today, Israeli warplanes circled over Beirut and other Lebanese cities staging several mock air raids all day long. In every raid, the planes swoop at a very low altitude breaking the sound barrier and causing two successive sonic booms, which rattled windows and set off car alarms.
The massive sonic bombs panicked the residents of the capital, many of whom ran for shelter fearing the air raids were explosions or bombardment. Children at school were the most frightened by the loud booms. Warplanes also conducted mock raids throughout the day over Sidon, Tyre, and areas in the South, Iqlim Al-Touffah and the Western Bekaa.
Also last night, warplanes broke the sound barrier over the capital drawing anti-craft fire from army positions. The Army also deployed armored personnel carriers equipped with anti-craft guns at major junctions in the different cities.
It was the first time in almost three-and-a-half years that warplanes had broken the sound barrier at such a low level and supersonic speed over the capital.
Prime Minister-designate Salim Al-Hoss today held talks over the phone with President Emil Lahhoud on the new Israeli provocation.
In a statement to reporters, the prime minister angrily reacted to the mock air raids, accusing Israel of deliberately provoking tensions. He added, "Israel is trying to intimidate us and I deplore that. We ask the April Understanding Committee to look into what the Israelis did today. Trouble is not what we need right now."
In his capacity as Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss today asked the ministry's Secretary General Zafer Al-Hassan to call on the April Understanding Monitoring Group to hold a meeting in a bid to discuss a Lebanese complaint over the Israeli attacks. Hoss said the Israeli mock raids are causing panic among Lebanese civilians and especially children.
Al-Hassan was also to send a message in this regard to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling on him to hold the necessary contacts to stop the Israeli aggressive measures against Lebanese civilians.
For his part, Hoss made phone calls to the ambassadors of the five permanent members at the UN Security Council and updated them on the situation. Hoss also briefed the ambassadors on measures to be taken by the Lebanese government in this regard, requesting that they inform their governments of the current situation.
The European Union Mideast Envoy, Miguel Angel Moratinus is expected to arrive in Beirut this evening to discuss ways to resume peace negotiations between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.
Diplomatic sources said Moratinus is expected to ask Lebanon for its conditions to restart talks with Israel. The sources added Lebanese officials would reiterate their call on the Israeli government to implement UN Resolution 425 and respect the principle of land for peace.
During his two-day visit to the country, Moratinus is scheduled to meet President Emil Lahhoud at Baabda as well as Prime Minister-designate Salim Al-Hoss. This is the EU envoy's first visit to the Lebanese capital since the election of the country's new president.
During the 19th annual summit meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC states stressed that Israel should abide by international resolutions especially UN Security Resolution 425. The resolution calls on Israel to pullout its troops from occupied territories in South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa with no conditions.
The six-member council stressed in a communiqué that peace would not be achieved except when all Arab rights are returned. The Gulf states also reiterated the importance of abiding by the principles of the Madrid Conference and the principle of land for peace. The also called for Israel's withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories including the Syrian Golan Heights in implementation of UN resolutions.
President Emil Lahhoud today received a delegation of the General Labor Confederation headed by Elias Abu-Rizk. Discussions centered on the latest developments in the country.
Also at Baabda, the president met the Director of the International Center for Human Sciences who handed the president a present from UNESCO's Director General, Frederico Mayor on the occasion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Lahhoud also met today a delegation from the Lebanese Chess Federation and another delegation of Beirut Merchants. He later received Latikia's Roman Catholic Archbishop, Faris Maakaroun.
At the Grand Saray, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss met the head of the Higher Lebanese-Syrian Council, Nasri Khoury who later announced a meeting for the council previously scheduled on the 16th of this month will be delayed.
Khoury added this would enable the council to continue discussions on issues related to the freedom of exchanging industrial products between the two countries.
Khoury said the meeting which was to be headed by the prime ministers of Syria and Lebanon will be delayed for another week. The head of the joint council also said great strides were achieved on the way of reaching such an agreement, which is expected to be implemented starting January 1st, 1999.
Bilateral economic and trade ties between Lebanon and the United States were today the center of talks between the Minister of Trade, Economy, and Industry Nasser Al-Saiidi and the US ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield.
After the meeting, Satterfield told reporters his visit aimed at discussing the current economic situation in the country and the future economic plans and policies of the new government, especially regarding the sectors of trade and industry. The US ambassador added he discussed with Minister Saiidi ways to boost economic, trade, and financial cooperation between Lebanon and the US.
Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh today stressed the monetary situation in the country is stable. He also reiterated the importance of working on reducing the budget deficit and funding public and private projects in the country.
Salameh was speaking at a meeting in Paris of representatives of world banks and financial institutions in addition to a number of French and foreign businessmen.
Salameh added the Lebanese Central Bank has developed during the past five years some financial tools that enabled the Lebanese currency to be almost immune to political changes in the country.
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