News from Beirut December 8  1998 ...Search

Ministerial committee to continue talks on policy statement tomorrow

The ministerial committee charged with drafting a policy statement for the new government will continue its discussions during a meeting tomorrow. The incoming cabinet charged six ministers of preparing the statement during its first session last Saturday. Besides Mr. Hoss, the committee is made up of incoming ministers Michel Al-Murr, Issam Naaman, Mohammed Youssef Baydoun, George Qorom and Nasser Saiidi.

The committee charged each minister with preparing a memorandum to outline problems faced by their ministries and recommend solutions. The draft policy statement is expected to be ready following the committee's scheduled meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, cabinet is expected to meet Friday to ratify the draft policy statement prepared by the ministerial committee before it would be presented to parliament for a confidence vote next Tuesday.

Political sources and analysts in the country expected the policy statement would center on topics such as national debt management, administrative reform and decentralization, taxing, investment, reconstruction, the war displaced file, and the country's foreign policy.

Reconstruction process will not be halted during the new term

Following the second ministerial committee meeting yesterday, Minister of Post and Telecommunication Issam Naaman said reconstruction projects will continue during the new government term but added those that have yet to start will be further studied. Naaman added the latter projects would be implemented "according to a staged development plan with priorities, so that the most important projects come before important ones."

The committee had earlier summoned the head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, Nabil Al-Jiser, for a briefing on projects requiring execution and others still under study by parliament. The CDR president was also asked to prepare a list of his priorities to be forwarded to the committee for study.

Hoss discusses financial situation with ministers

At the Grand Saray, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss headed a meeting last night with Incoming Economy and Industry Minister Nasser Al-Saiidi and Finance Minister George Qorom in the presence of his outgoing counterpart, Fouad Sanyoura.

The meeting tackled the general monetary situation in the country. Reports prepared by the Finance Ministry on the 1999 state budget were also presented during the meeting. Qorom later said tax system reform would result from balancing direct and indirect taxes. Qorom also stressed the stability of the economic and monetary situation in the country.

Meanwhile, government sources denied press reports saying the new cabinet would ask parliament for exceptional powers to merge a number of ministries. Political sources were yesterday quoted as saying the incoming cabinet, with some ministers holding several portfolios that will eventually be merged, would likely make the request when the ministerial policy statement is announced to parliament.

Hoss searching for a permanent headquarters for cabinet meetings

Prime Minister-designate Salim Al-Hoss is looking for a permanent headquarters for the cabinet. Minister of Post and Telecommunication Issam Naaman yesterday stressed that finding permanent headquarters for the cabinet, as stipulated in the Taef Agreement, would definitely not require commissioning a new building.

Political sources said the old government house in the Sanaiah area was the option for the permanent offices. Other sources point at the newly reconstructed Grand Saray. But Baabda sources yesterday said President Emil Lahhoud and Prime Minister Hoss would agree on the new location together.

Handing over ceremonies continue between ministers today

For a second day today, handing over ceremonies between outgoing and incoming ministers continued. 12 former ministers handed over their posts yesterday to incoming ministers who mainly discussed their expectations, priorities, and plans.

Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss will be handed the portfolio of the Foreign Ministry from outgoing Minister Faris Boueiz. As a Foreign Minister, Al-Hoss will be working from the Grand Saray with the Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry, Zafer Al-Hassan coordinating the work of Mr. Hoss with the work of the ministry at Boustros Palace.

Cabinet portfolios of agriculture, technical and vocational training, education, justice, and tourism will also be handed to the incoming ministers during the day.

Jumblatt skips formal handover ceremony

Former Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt was the only outgoing minister who did not formally hand over the portfolio to his successor, Anwar Al-Khalil.

Mr. Jumblatt paid the ministry's headquarters a quick early visit replacing the standard handing-over ceremony. The outgoing minister thanked all the ministry's employees. He also expressed his deep gratefulness to former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri whom he said, "supported our efforts morally and financially like nobody else, despite our differences at a certain stage."

Jumblatt also thanked former President Elias Al-Hrawi for his considerable political backing for the return of the war-displaced refugees. "If others have a different approach to the refugees problem today, so be it, as long as the approach does not discriminate between the displaced," Jumblatt added.

World Bank delegation arrives in Beirut later this week

A World Bank delegation will arrive in Beirut Thursday. World Bank officials yesterday reiterated in a statement the bank's ongoing support to Lebanon. The delegation will look into the needs of the financial sector in the country.

Lebanon's new Minister of Finance, George Qorom, yesterday received a call from the World Bank saying the delegation will hold talks with government officials on a variety of levels. Qorom also revealed the delegation would discuss new loans for Lebanon.

Qorom said the bank's vice governor stressed the institution's commitment to support Lebanon and assured him that the bank would put itself at the disposal of the Ministry of Finance. "I will try to find out why the World bank withdrew its loans to Lebanon which were approved by parliament, " Qorom added.

Israel escalates attacks on the South and the resistance retaliates

Israeli occupying forces today shelled several villages in the Iqlim Al-Touffah area. The Israeli artillery earlier today shelled the riverbanks of Litani, the fields of Sojod and Rayhan, the outskirts of Habboush and Mazraat Okmata.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Resistance retaliated by attacking twice today an Israeli position in Sojod. A resistance statement said direct hits were scored in the operation.

Meanwhile, the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group today met in Naqoura to look into one Israeli complaint that was lodged over alleged resistance attacks originating from the village of Sawwaneh and targeting an Israeli position in the South.

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