President Elias Al-Hrawi today stressed from the presidential palace in Baabda he will "go home" at the end of his term. Visiting deputy Boutrous Harb said after talks with Hrawi the president did not discuss the upcoming presidential elections with any official at Baabda. Presidential sources denied media reports claiming the president supports the amendment of the country's constitution regarding the subject of presidential elections. For his part, deputy Harb said he discussed with the president the upcoming visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Lebanon in light of recent Israeli maneuvers concerning UN resolution 425. The Baabda sources added the president will not intervene in the disagreement around Lebanon's Basketball championship, adding sports unions should be in charge taking the suitable decisions. Education Minister John Obeid yesterday annulled the basketball championship's semi-final results.
In another development, Hrawi discussed current issues with deputy Ali Ousseiran and former deputy Abdullah Qoutaimeh. He also received a delegation from the Syrian National Social Party which thanked the president for his consolidations on the death of the party's chief Inaam Raad.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today met a number of Lebanese officials at government palace as part of his consultation bid to find resources to fund vital socio-economic and political projects in the country. The premier held talks with a delegation from the Armenian Tashnak Party headed by minister Shahe Barsoumian. The oil minister later stressed the necessity of maintaining the planned 37% budget deficit. He added discussions centered on the war-displaced file, the public sector pay scales, and development plans. Hariri also met a delegation from the General Labor Confederation headed by Ghaneem Al-Zhoghbi who later said he discussed with Hariri a number of GLC demands. He added another meeting will be held with the premier on Thursday to continue consultations regarding the draft pay scales law. Al-Zhoghbi also said he agree with the premier on the formation of a socio-economic council to pursue GLC demands. He added a meeting will be held on Friday between the GLC and Labor Minister Asaad Hardan to discuss the formation of a board of directors for the National Fund for Social Security. The premier held a meeting with members of the Armenian Aram Ghafar Party which praised Hariri's consultation bid anticipating its positive effects on the country's economic and political future. Another Armenian party, the Hanshak also visited prime minister Hariri today. The Party stressed the role of administrative reform as a vital issue that should be tackled during the premier's discussions with Lebanese officials. The Prime Minister also received a delegation from the Lebanese Communist Party headed by Farouq Dahrouj.
Apart from consultations, Hariri held talks with his deputy Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr. Al-Murr told reporters at the palace he discussed with Hariri his ministry's preparations for the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections. Al-Murr said calls for holding local elections will be forwarded before the end of this month. He added no date has been set yet for the planned Lebanese-Syrian summit, but said the meeting will be held in Damascus before UN Secretary Kofi Annan's scheduled visit to Lebanon on the 20th of this month.
The Interior Minister heads a meeting today of the Central Security Council to discuss local elections preparations.
President Elias Al-Hrawi and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri are scheduled to meet tomorrow evening to discuss the public sector pay scales draft law before discussing the project during cabinet's next meeting. The discussions will be attended by Acting Minister of State Fouad Al-Sanyoura, the head of the Lebanese Central Bank Riyad Salameh and a number of officials and economic advisors. Sanyoura today told reporters at the finance ministry the government is highly concerned about finding suitable resources to funds vital projects in the country, especially those related to the ratification of the pay scales draft law and the return of the war displaced to their homes and villages among others.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today headed a meeting for parliament's general committee. The house speaker along with members of the committee later inspected a new building to host deputies' offices. Berri also held talks today with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. He later received former minister Elie Salem and the director general of the Issam Faris Institution, Antoine Habib. After the meeting, Salem told reporters at parliament discussions with the House Speaker centered on the International Parliamentary Conference for UN Resolution 425 to be held on the 23rd of April at the University of Balamand in Beirut.
The Parliamentary committee for immigrants and foreign affairs today held a meeting in parliament attended by Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. The committee stressed Lebanon's fixed stance concerning UN Resolution 425 and the unconditional withdrawal of Israel from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. The committee also reiterated the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian tracks and the necessity of enforcing national unity in the face of the recent Israeli maneuvers.
The committee for public works and transportation also met headed by deputy Samir Azaar in the presence of Transportation Minister Omar Miskawi. The parliamentary committee ratified two draft laws that allow the government to sign transportation agreements with Iran. The committee also called for the protection of the Public Transport Sector in the country by issuing a law in this regard.
The budget and finance committee in parliament also held a meeting headed by deputy Khalil Al-Hrawi. The committee ratified two draft agreements to be signed with Germany and Armenia.
Represented by the head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, Nabil Al-Jiser, Lebanon today signed two agreements with the Arab fund for Economic Development. The agreements were signed by Al-Jiser and the head of the fund, Abel Latif Al-Hamad. Accordingly, two rehabilitation projects to be carried out by the ministry of Public Works in North Lebanon and at the Southern entrance of the capital will be funded. 18 million Kuwaiti Deenars will be allotted to the two projects with an annual interest of 4.5% over a period of 22 years. The Arab Fund's contributions to development projects in Lebanon have reached 164 million Kuwaiti Deenars.
Al-Jiser and Al-Hamad also visited today President Elias Al-Hrawi at Baabda and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace. Discussions centered on the Conference for Arab Funds to be held in Beirut next may.
During a press conference, Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej today announced 650 employees from 30 ministries and governmental administrations will enroll in a computer and office training program.
Merhej said the project will be followed by a series of other administrative reform plans to be funded by the World Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and later the European Union.
Accordingly, public administrations will be also provided with about 450 new computer sets in addition to new information programs and networks.
Administrative staff and employees will be subject to the necessary training to be able to use these resources in an efficient manner.
Middle East Airlines yesterday announced a new reform plan aimed at cutting down the company?s $53m deficit. MEA newly appointed chairman Mohammed Al-Hout yesterday held a press conference to explain the new strategy in the presence of the head of the press syndicate Mohammed Al-Baalbacki and members of the company?s board of directors and a number of employees.
Under the new plan and according to Al-Hout, the company will attempt to increase wide connections and make efficient use of resources, airplanes and employees. He added the company will cancel flights to eight destinations and increase the frequency of other trips. Al-Hout estimated the new strategy will save the company no less than $20m. MEA's chairman also said the Lebanese Central Bank, which owns 99 percent of the national carrier, has given its full approval to the plan.
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