Shortly after his arrival in Beirut, the head of the European Commission Jacques Santer headed to the government palace were he held talks with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. After discussions, Santer told explained the benefits of an economic cooperation agreement between Lebanon and the EU.
Santer added such cooperation is highly needed for the partnership program between the European Union and countries in the Mediterranean basin launched by the Barcelona declaration in November 1995. The total amount of EU contributions to Lebanon is estimated to reach $160 million in 1998. The European Commission chief also stressed the EU is ascribing great importance to achieving a fair peace settlement in the volatile region.
During his visit, Santer is also due to meet President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. His visit is the last leg of a tour in the region that took him to Cairo, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian self-rule area, and Syria.
President Elias Al-Hrawi reportedly reiterated his conviction in an earlier proposal of an optional civil marriage law. At the presidential palace in Baabda, Visiting deputy Shaker Abu-Sleiman quoted president Hrawi as saying he supports such a law especially because it is not obligatory neither for Muslims nor for Christians. For his part, Abu-Sleiman saw no possibility of a government reshuffle in the near future adding the present circumstances would not allow such a move. Deputy Abu-Sleiman added there was no disagreement between President Hrawi and House Speaker Nabih Berri saying the two planned to meet during the opening of a new play by Mansour Rahbani, "The Last Days of Socrates", in Casino du Liban.
President Hrawi later held talks with deputy Mansour Ghanem Al-Boun on current issues in the country and the region. He also received a delegation from the village of Ana.
After a meeting of the council of Muftis, a statement was issued announcing renewed support for Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani's refusal of such a law. The statement added a civil marriage contradicts with the natures of the Islamic doctrine or Shariaa adding it would be refuted by all Lebanese Moslems. The Muftis Council statement also said this would affect national stability in the country. Regarding the current US threats of a military strike against Iraq, the Council of Muftis voiced concern for Iraq and its people adding such a planned strike reveals aggressive tactics against the Arab nation aimed at dividing it and controlling its resources. The council called for all Arabs to be firm and united in the face of such threats.
Iraqi foreign minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf is expected in Lebanon during the coming two days. He will hold discussions with top Lebanese officials on the current Iraqi crisis. His visit aims at explaining his country's stance regarding UN weapons inspections which led to the current Iraqi-UN standoff. Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri during had welcomed such a visit during a press conference he held in Malaysia.
The Lebanese daily Beirut Times said it was folding because of financial difficulties seven months after it was launched. In a front-page statement, the paper said: "We regret to announce to our readers and sympathizers that owing to the prevailing adverse Lebanese economic circumstances, we have decided to suspend the publication of our dearly created The Beirut Times". But the statement added this was not a farewell but a temporary parting in the hopeful assurance that The Beirut Times will reappear sometime in the future. Beirut Times, with offices in Washington, London and Paris, and correspondents in the Gulf, Syria, Jordan, Palestinian self-rule areas and Egypt, was the second English-language paper to open in Beirut after the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. In November 1996, the Daily Star reopened after an 11-year absence.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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