Following his meeting with President Emil Lahhoud, Europe's Mideast Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinus said the Lebanese President encouraged him to continue his efforts in a bid to achieve peace in the region. Moratinus also told reporters at the presidential palace that Lahhoud sees the situation in the region as difficult but that he did not lose hope in finding a solution.
On the possibility of kick-starting peace negotiations on the Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the process, Moratinus said we should not put a time schedule for this. He stressed the European Union considers all files in the peace process as important adding the EU wants to see positive developments in the Palestinian file.
On UN Security Council Resolution 425, the EU envoy said the resolution is clear and it should be implemented without conditions. Moratinus also told reporters he will head to Damascus tomorrow to continue his peace mission in the region.
Moratinus also met today House Speaker Nabih Berri in parliament and Prime Minister-designate Salim Al-Hoss at the Grand Saray.
Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss today praised UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's stance that rejects an Israeli proposal of separating the Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the peace process. For his part, Hoss said a comprehensive peace in the region cannot be achieved without Syria.
Hoss also thanked Annan for his quick response to a letter sent by Lebanon regarding the mock air raids staged by Israeli warplanes over the capital and other Lebanese cities which caused panic among residents especially children, old people, and foreigners living in Lebanon.
Also in this regard, Prime Minister Hoss requested that Europe's Envoy to the Middle East Miguel Angel Moratinus inform Israel to stop invading Lebanon's skies. During their meeting at the Grand Saray, Moratinus promised he would report this to the Israeli government.
Israeli occupying troops today continued their attacks on a number of villages and areas in South Lebanon. Israeli artillery situated in the outposts of Zaffateh and Rayhan shelled the fields of Sojod, Rayhan, Jabal Rafii, and Mazraat Okmata in Iqlim Al-Touffah.
In another development, a young shepherd was miraculously saved when his village, Western Zawtar, was subject to Israeli shelling. The young boy, Abbas Hassan Turki, lost some 30 sheep, however, that were killed in the shelling.
Meanwhile, the rumble of Israeli warplanes was still clearly audible today following two days of heavy Israeli activity in Lebanese skies. All night long, Israeli planes were staging raids over Lebanese coastal cities.
Lebanon yesterday filed a complaint to the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group on the Israeli provocation, which caused panic among residents, especially children.
At the Baabda Palace today, President Emil Lahhoud received a delegation from the Saint Joseph University in the presence of MPs Nayla Mouawwad and Marwan Hmadeh and former ministers Michel Eddeh and Bshara Merhej.
Lahhoud later met MPs Boutros Harb, Mosbah Al-Ahdap, Habib Hakim, Mahmud Awwad, Nicola Ghosn and Nuhad Saayd. Discussions centered on pressing demands of the areas they represent.
During a session headed by President Emil Lahhoud, cabinet this evening is expected to ratify the new government's policy statement prepared by a six-member ministerial committee. The statement will then be referred to parliament, which will in turn call for a session during which the new cabinet will face the vote of confidence.
The ministerial committee yesterday laid the final touches on the statement during a meeting last night at the Grand Saray headed by Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss.
The booklet of around 20 pages focuses on the economic and financial situation in the country. It is also believed to include a study of ministry merger, plans to monitoring Treasury bill issues, reconstruction priorities and an examination of privatizing utilities.
Finance Minister George Qorom today met the head of the Middle East and North Africa Department at the World Bank. Discussions centered on possible ways of cooperation between the Finance Ministry and the World Bank.
During his visit to Lebanon, the World Bank official is expected to meet a number of Lebanese officials and finance figures to discuss the possibility of further cooperation between the bank and the different Lebanese sectors.
The US Ambassador to Lebanon, David Satterfield today continued his protocol visits to newly appointed ministers. He met today Information Minister Anwar Al-Khalil and Administrative Reform Minister Hassan Shalaq.
Satterfield reiterated his country's support to Lebanon and its will to contribute to the different needs of Lebanese ministries. Satterfield also stressed the US Administration is constantly working on reducing tension and providing escalation in the situation in South Lebanon. He added his country is exerting considerable efforts in a bid to achieve comprehensive and just peace in the region.
Former President Amin Jmayyel today postponed a visit to Lebanon that was scheduled later today. His office in Paris said the causes behind this decision will be discussed in a follow-up statement to be issued soon.
After 10 years of self-exile in Paris, the former president had decided to visit Beirut to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with his family declining to say if his return would be permanent.
A political source in Beirut had predicted a permanent return for Jmayyel citing the fact that he had closed his law firm in Paris and shipped his personal belongings to Beirut. The source added Jmayyel's decision to visit Beirut was taken after he had received assurances from senior officials in the country.
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