News from Beirut December 14  1998 ...Search

Cabinet presents policy statement to parliament

Cabinet today presented its policy statement to parliament on the basis of which it is expected to obtain the House's vote of confidence later this week. During a session headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Salim Al-Hoss read the document to deputies outlining his government's plan of political and economic reform. The session was later adjourned until Wednesday, giving MPs a period of 48 hours, in accordance with the law, to examine the cabinet's statement.

The 18-page document was prepared by a ministerial committee especially charged with drafting it. Besides Mr. Hoss, the committee is made up of  ministers Michel Al-Murr, Issam Naaman, Mohammed Youssef Baydoun, George Qorom and Nasser Saiidi.

Hoss says change and reform mark new phase

During the half-an-hour parliamentary session this morning, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss read his government's ministerial policy statement to deputies. At the beginning of his speech, Hoss stressed Lebanon has entered a new phase that is mainly characterized by change and reform.

Hoss said the ministerial statement echoes President Emil Lahhoud's inaugural speech. He also outlined the national objectives of his government as follows:

- Boosting national alliance with Syria by activating the bilateral agreement of brotherhood, cooperation, and coordination between the two countries.

- Supporting the Lebanese Resistance against the Israeli occupation until UN Resolution 425 is implemented without conditions.

- Building the state of law and institutions whereby the state's performance is bound to the principles of law.

- Increasing cooperation between cabinet and parliament in the framework of the constitution.

- Preserving all rights and public and private liberties guaranteed by the constitution.

- Boosting the independence of the judiciary.

- Activating monitoring agencies in the framework of an administrative reform plan.

- Giving the war displaced file exceptional attention and ensuring all displaced people return to their villages and homes during a set timetable.

- Formulating a new election draft law, which ensures representation for all.

- Ratifying a draft law on administrative decentralization as stipulated in the National Reconciliation Accord.

- Abiding by the National Reconciliation Accord in letter and in spirit.

- Preparing a plan for balanced development.

- Preparing a plan to deal with the budget deficit.

- Reducing national debt.

- Preserving transparency the government's performance.

- Working on implementing free and compulsory elementary education.

- Giving the Lebanese University special attention and supporting it in all possible ways.

- Drafting a new law for granting citizenship.

- Preparing an environment policy for the state based on cooperation between the private and public sectors.

- Cooperating with parliament on abolishing political sectarianism.

Hoss also stressed in his speech the necessity of stopping what he called the "financial hemorrhage" that resulted from previous policies. A second challenge, Hoss added, is to restore the competition spirit to the national economy.

Lahhoud meets foreign delegations at Baabda

At the Baabda Palace, President Emil Lahhoud this morning received a delegation of the Socialist Party in France. The head of the delegation later stressed President Lahhoud gave special attention to boosting cooperation between political forces in both countries.

President Lahhoud later met the Commander of the Polish Army accompanied by a military delegation from Poland. The president also held consecutive meetings with the Danish Ambassador to Lebanon and the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

Lahhoud also received today the Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister for Middle Eastern and African Affairs, Mohammed Al-Sader who handed the president a letter from his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Khatemi stressing ongoing cooperation with the Lebanese Republic.

Karam reports Lahhoud's support for liberties

Also at Baabda today, President Emil Lahhoud received a delegation from the Editors' Syndicate headed by Melhem Karam. Karam later described the meeting with the president as highly frank, adding it echoed the leader's honesty and high convictions.

Karam reported Lahhoud's call on all the Lebanese journalists to watch the state's performance in the upcoming phase, stressing he will always support press liberties. Lahhoud also said he would work on the implementation of all points mentioned in his inaugural speech in parliament.

Berri holds talks with new ministers

Following the parliamentary session this morning, House Speaker Nabih Berri received Finance Minister George Qorom. He later held separate meetings with Education Minister Mohammed Youssef Baydoun, Minister of Administrative Reform Hassan Shalaq and Minister of Post and Telecommunication Issam Naaman.

At noon, the house speaker held talks with Information Minister Anwar Al-Khalil. He later received an Iranian official delegation at his office in parliament.

Arab Planning Institute holds Trustees Board Meeting in Beirut

Under the patronage of Finance Minister George Qorom, the Trustees Board Meeting of the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait was opened this morning at the Bristol Hotel in Beirut.

The event was attended by Minister of Administrative Reform Hassan Shalaq, Kuwaiti Minister of Planning and Development Ali Al-Moussa, who heads the board of trustees, and Kuwaiti Minister of Administrative Planning Nabil Ammari. Also among the participants were finance ministers at the 15 Arab member states in the institute.

Minister Moussa thanked the Lebanese government for hosting the first meeting this year of the institute's board of trustees in Beirut, stressing the importance of development as a main objective for many Arab states. For his part, Minister Qorom said Lebanon is working hard on developing its main sectors. The Trustees Board later held a closed-door meeting to discuss a number of issues related to social and economic development in Lebanon and the Arab world.

Israel continues attacks on the South and the Western Bekaa

Israeli shelling this morning intensified over the outskirts of Qelya and Wadi Zellaya in the Western Bekaa. The shells originated from Israeli outposts in Wadi Abu-Qamha. Israeli occupying troops also bombarded today the hills of Iqlim Al-Touffah focusing on the fields of Sojod, Rayhan, and Mazraat Okmata.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes carried out intensive low-level flights over the villages of Janta, Nabi Sheet, and Baalback drawing Lebanese Army fire. For its part, the resistance shelled today the Israeli position in the village of Kawkaba.

Murr unveils two gangs of robbers in Metn

Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr today held a press conference announcing security forces unveiled two robbery gangs, the first including three Sudanese and the second five Somalis.

Murr told the press conference the two gangs have been carrying out robberies for three months in the Metn area. The Somali gang has carried out some 36 robberies in different areas in Rabieh, Antelias and Dbayyeh.

The Sudanese gang was mainly carrying out thefts in the area of Broummana. Murr stressed security measures would be tightened in the upcoming holy season.

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