News from Beirut February 19  1998 ...Search

Cabinet allocates $50 million for rural areas

Cabinet last night approved the spending of one third of the 150 billion Lebanese Liras allocated for development projects in the rural and deprived areas of the country. The LL50bn will be divided as follows: 24 billion for Baalbeck, 8 billion for the Hermel area and the remaining 18 for Akkar. The sum will be used for the rehabilitation of road networks in these rural areas. Ministerial sources after the meeting said the sum will be taken from the country's budget adding it will not affect the budget deficit.

The LL100bn remaining from the overall development plan will be discussed during the next meeting of the ministerial committee in charge. This was announced by Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa following cabinet?s session which was headed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and attended by a number of ministers and deputies. Sabaa told reporters at the government palace cabinet also discussed teachers's demands among other issues scheduled on the agenda of talks. Cabinet did not ratify pay scales demands but approved the recommendation of a ministerial committee concerning the calculation of retirement pensions. The teachers of Lebanon are currently preparing for a strike to be held on the 24 and 25 of this month to press for their demands. The Information Minister also said cabinet discussed the stand-off in Iraq and the current situation in the Gulf. Ministers stressed the importance of diplomacy and diplomatic efforts in solving the crisis and sparing the region an enormous threat.

Hrawi reiterates support for civil marriage proposal

At Baabda, Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi reportedly reiterated support for his optional civil marriage law proposal. Visiting head of the editors' syndicate, Melhem Karam, quoted the president as saying he was confident that 80 percent of the Lebanese are in favor of such a law. Hrawi reportedly voiced support for a number of constitutional amendments aimed at putting an end to the troika system in the country. On the presidential and local elections, Karam quoted Hrawi as saying they will be held on time. Hrawi and Karam also discussed the Iraqi standoff and the situation in South Lebanon.

Berri holds talks with US ambassador

House Speaker Nabih Berri received the US ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones at Nijmeh Square. Discussions centered on the Iraqi stand-off with each official explaining his country's views on the issue. Berri warned of  the negative economic repercussions that a possible military strike of Iraq could have on the region. Berri and Jones also held talks on UN Security Council Resolution 425. The House Speaker stressed the necessity of the resolution's implementation with no negotiations or security preparations and guarantees. The resolution calls on for Israel's immediate and unconditional withdrawal form South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa.

In another development, Berri told parliament reporters yesterday a legislative parliamentary session will be held before the end of this month. Berri added the pay-scales draft law will top the agenda of talks during the upcoming session. Also at parliament, the committee for foreign affairs yesterday discussed the recent economic agreement signed between Lebanon and Syria by the countries' prime ministers Rafik Al-Hariri and Mahmud Al-Zohbi. The committee praised the accord saying it prepares for the creation of an Arab Common Market adding it comes under the banner of  the special relations that dominate between Syria and Lebanon.

The Iraqi situation tops the agenda of discussions at the foreign ministry

Foreign Ministry's Secretary General Zafer Al-Hassan held talks with Chile's ambassador to Lebanon Ignacio Gonzalez-Serrano. Discussions centered on the current Iraqi crisis. Serrano told reporters at Boustrous Palace he was carrying official statements by his government regarding the issue adding his country hopes a peaceful solution will be reached to resolve the crisis but stressed on the other hand the necessity of  implementing UN resolutions. Chile's ambassador also hoped the diplomatic and political efforts being exerted would succeed in resolving the problem.

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