On the eve of the scheduled meeting of the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group in Naqoura, Israel stepped up its attacks on South Lebanon. Israeli shells fell this morning on the Iqlim Al-Touffah mountain ridges launched from the Zaffateh outpost. Israel also shelled the outskirts of Sojod, Rayhan, Lowayzeh, and Jbaa. During the afternoon, Israel rocketed Jabal Abu-Rashed, Birkat Jabbour, and the Ain Al-Teeneh hills in Iqlim Al-Touffah. Israeli reconnaissance flights were also performed over the area. Israeli planes later carried mock air raids on the village of Nabatieh and the Iqlim Al-Touffah hills. Meanwhile, the resistance in South Lebanon today issued a statement saying it attacked the Israeli post in Sojod scoring direct hits. The resistance alter attacked an Israeli patrol in Kassaret Al-Aroush in Rayhan also scoring direct hits.
Argentinian President Carlos Menem today arrived in a Beirut for a three-day official visit to Lebanon. His plane landed at Beirut's International Airport at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. Menem was accompanied by his foreign minister, the Argentinian minister of education and other senior officials, some of whom are of Lebanese origin. The South American president was received at the airport by president Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr, and a number of ministers, deputies and ambassadors. He later headed along with President Hrawi to the presidential palace in Baabda where they will hold talks on bilateral ties between the two countries, the situation in South Lebanon and the future of the stalled Middle East peace process. The South American president is also expected to discuss with his Lebanese counterpart ways to boost bilateral economic ties. He is due to address the Lebanese parliament tomorrow and to visit the national museum later on. His visit, the first ever by an Argentinian head of state, was described by the Argentinian ambassador to Lebanon as historic. Argentina is the second largest Lebanese expatriates community in South America after Brazil. It is estimated that there are more than 1.2 million Argentinians of Lebanese origin. Trade between the two countries is estimated to have reached record well over $36 million in 1996.
Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today headed to Syria after a two day visit to France where he held talks with French President Jacques Chirac on the recent regional developments and the Iraqi situation. Before visiting France, Hariri was in Saudi Arabia where he met Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdel Al-Aziz and held discussions with Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz on the Arab and regional situation.
The Greenpeace Mediterranean Office in Beirut today held a press conference on the drinking water systems in the country. Greenpeace Representative Fouad Hamdan this morning claimed the Lebanese authorities are planning to use dangerous asbestos cement pipes for drinking water systems in the northern Lebanese areas of Tripoli, Batrun, and Akkar. Greenpeace had last week contacted the head of the Beirut port in a bid to convince its authority to replace dangerous asbestos panels in five new hangers to be constructed in the port soon. The head of the Beirut Port Authority, Muhib Itani informed Greenpeace that he will see to it that the asbestos panels are replaced with ones made of steel. The drinking water piping systems project is financed by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) and the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity. Hamdan said Greenpeace contacted the CDR but added the council refused to discuss the issue of asbestos cement pipes and closed the door to any dialogue. During the Greenpeace press conference, asbestos was described as a product that causes lethal diseases when inhaled. Greenpeace today showed serious concerns that asbestos in drinking water systems can cause cancer in the digestive system. But the CDR later issued a statement denying these claims and saying asbestos pipes will not endanger public health. The CDR based its report on recent findings by the World Health Organization.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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