Argentinean president Carlos Menem today continued his official visit to Lebanon. At 9:15 this morning, Menem visited Lebanon?s National Museum. He was welcomed by Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul and a number of military officials and Beiruti figures. Following a parade by the presidential guards of honor, the South American president laid flower wreaths on the tomb of the unknown soldier. He was later guided by the minister of higher education Fawzi Hobeish and the head of the directorate general of antiquities into the museum which reopened its doors to the public last November after undergoing renovation.
Later in the day, the South American President headed to parliament which held today a special session on the occasion of the historic visit, the first ever by an Argentinean head of state. He addressed a number of deputies and diplomatic figures stressing in his speech the necessity of increasing trade exchanges between the two countries. Menem added Lebanon and Argentina held similar views regarding the Mideast situation and the peace process. He reiterated his country's support to Lebanon and to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 425 based on the principle of exchanging land for peace.
Menem reminded Lebanese officials that there are approximately 1.5 million Lebanese who live in Argentina. Trade exchanges between the two countries has increased over the past few years and reached well over $36 million in 1996. For his part, House Speaker Nabih Berri condemned Israel for its hard-line policies and its ongoing aggressions against Lebanon.
Berri also stressed the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian track and destiny. After the session, Menem and Berri held a closed door meeting. The Argentinean president later headed to the ancient city of Jbeil where he inspected the historic site.
Menem who arrived in Beirut yesterday for a three-day official visit last night held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Elias Al-Hrawi at the presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on bilateral relations and the staled Mideast peace talks. The Argentina leader will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri tonight before leaving Beirut tomorrow morning. He will proceed to Egypt where he is expected to inaugurate a $100 million non-military nuclear reactor build by Argentina.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held intense discussions with Syrian officials in Damascus. After a whole week of consultations with Saudi Arabian and French top officials, the Lebanese premier today held talks with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and prime minister Mahmud Al-Zohbi. Sources close to Hariri said discussions centered on bilateral economic, trade, industrial and agricultural cooperation between the two countries. The Lebanese-Syrian talks also tackled regional developments focusing on the Iraqi crisis and the stalled Mideast peace talks. The sources quoted the two sides as stressing the necessity of continuing coordination and consultation with each other.
Hariri's talks came amid intense diplomatic activity in the Syrian capital. Europe's special Mideast Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinus held talks in Damascus yesterday on EU efforts to rescue the deadlocked Middle East peace process. He discussed with foreign minister Farouq Al-Sharaa the up-coming visit to Damascus of EU commission chairman Jacques Santer. Santer is due to start a regional tour on February 6 which will take him successively to Cairo, Amman, Damascus and Beirut. Meanwhile, Iran's parliament speaker Nateq Nouri today arrived in Damascus for talks on ways to strengthen bilateral ties. The Iranian official is later expected in Beirut where he will hold talks with top Lebanese officials. The two visits indicate Iran's bid boost ties with all countries in the Arab world following the Islamic Summit which was held recently in Tehran.
Israeli security forces yesterday detained two residents from the village of Shibaa which lies on the borders of the zone Israel occupies in South Lebanon. Kassim Hamdan and Kassim Kaadan were led to Hasbayya following interrogation. Israeli forces on Wednesday imposed a siege on the village, the second in less than two months and deported two residents on the same day. Meanwhile, Lebanon's foreign ministry is preparing to file a compliant to the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group in response to the deportations. The panel is expected to meet on February 9 to consider three Lebanese complaints about cease-fire violations.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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