After two days of criticism from MPs, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss and his new cabinet won parliament's vote of confidence late last night. Of the 116 deputies present, 85 voted for the new government and 31 abstained.
The new opposition mainly took the shape of blocs belonging to former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri (11), former Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt (9), and Hizbullah deputies (8). Three other MPs from the north, Ahmad Karameh, Omar Miskawi and Ahmad Fatfat, also joined the opposition.
Opponents of the new government mainly centered their criticisms of the ministerial policy statement on its lack of detail, with the bulk of the criticism coming from the parliamentary blocs of Hariri and Jumblatt.
The last to speak before the actual vote, Prime Minister Hoss reiterated his goal of improving the economy and stamping out corruption. Hoss also insisted his statement had avoided criticizing the previous administration as mush as possible.
President Emil Lahhoud today held a meeting with Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss at Baabda. Discussions centered on recent local and regional developments.
Lahhoud today received greeting messages on the occasion of Christmas and Ramadan from Moroccan King Hassan II, South African President Nelson Mandela, the President of Zambia, and the Prime Minister of Bahrain.
The president earlier held talks with the head of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine who visited Baabda accompanied by his deputy, Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan. After the meeting, Shamseddine voiced support to the new president calling on more cooperation between all Lebanese authorities and institutions.
Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss today received the Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon, Nazem Demlo at the Grand Saray. Demlo handed the premier an official invitation to visit Turkey.
The premier later held talks with a papal delegation including the head of the Papal Delegation in the World, Robert Stern, its representative in the US, John Faris, and its representative in Lebanon, Issam Bshara.
Hoss also received a letter today from the Secretary General of the Arab League Issmat Abdel Majid that tackled the current strike on Iraq in addition to recent regional developments.
Former Prime Minister, Beirut MP Rafik Al-Hariri this morning headed to Damascus for talks with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.
During his visit to the Syrian capital, Hariri will also meet a number of high-ranking Syrian officials after having lunch with Khaddam at his residence.
In the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Mar Elias, a joint Lebanese-Palestinian meeting was held this morning in protest and strong denunciation to the current military aggressions against Iraq.
A sit-in was also organized by the Arab National Forum in front of the UN House in downtown Beirut this afternoon to protest the sanctions and military actions against Iraq.
In Sidon, political groups demonstrated after prayers at the al-Quds mosque. The Fatah Movement also organized a strike in the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Ain Al-Helwa expressing solidarity with Iraq.
Similar solidarity meetings and sit-ins were organized by political groups in Iqlim Al-Kharroub and the Western Bekaa.
Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss yesterday denounced the US-led air strikes on Iraq and parliament endorsed Mr. Hoss' statement in a unanimous vote. Hoss urged the United States to stop this aggression and to show commitment to a fairer Middle East policy.
Students in all faculties of the Lebanese University across the country today held a strike to protest the US-British aggression against Iraq and its people. They were also joined by students from the Arab University and the University of Balamand.
For a second day today, students at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University continued their solidarity strike with the Iraqi people. They held banners and displayed pictures of dying Iraqi children and sang songs of solidarity for the Iraqi people.
The AUB Iraqi Cultural Club printed leaflets calling for solidarity between all Arab people and condemned the US violations and assaults against Iraq and its sovereignty. "Bill go to Monica", "Stop US Fascism", "From Washington to Baghdad, Happy New Year", and "Thanks Fox for Your Gifts" read banners condemning Operation Desert Fox in front of AUB main gate. LAU students also distributed leaflets urging the government, religious authorities and Arab and Islamic countries to take action against the attack.
One Lebanese civilian was killed and another wounded in Israeli shelling of the village of Shaqra. Around 12 shells, originating from Israeli positions in the occupation zone, fell on the village last night killing Mohsen Khalaf, 17, and wounding Mahmud Deeb. The bombardment also destroyed the house of Mohsen's father.
Meanwhile, Israeli occupying troops today continued their attacks on southern villages. Shells targeted this morning the outskirts of Haddatha, Ayta Al-Jabal, Harees, Kafra, Yater, Baraasheet and Jabal Al-Zaatar. The bombardment caused damage in the house of Lebanese civilian Atef Nasser.
For its part, the Lebanese Resistance retaliated by attacking Israeli outposts in the hills of Rshaf and Haddatha scoring direct hits in the operations according to statements by the resistance.
In light of the absence of an immediate solution to the problem of contaminated water in Tripoli and Mina, three ministers today held a meeting at the city's government house to deal with the issue.
Minister of Electricity and Water Resources Suleiman Traboulsi, Minister of Public Works Najib Meeqati, and Environment Minister Arthur Nazarian met with North Governor Khalil Al-Hindi in the presence of Deputy Fayez Ghoson and a number of municipality figures and dignitaries in the city. The meeting formed a committee to tackle the problem immediately.
Laboratory tests had indicated that drinking-water supplies for Tripoli and Mina were being polluted by olive-oil residue discharged by olive-oil presses around the area. For the past two weeks, Tripoli residents have been buying bottled water for drinking and domestic use.
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