Lebanon was today struck by a storm almost never witnessed before. Very strong and dusty winds blew at a speed of 70-110 kilometers per hour. The temperature was high ranging between 14 and 23 degree Celsius at sea level and reaching 27 degrees last night. The Humidity Range was recorded between 40 and 70% and the sea was very wavy. People in the streets were having difficulty driving in such a weather. Local weather reports this morning warned people to drive slowly and carefully. Their car lights should be on too. The storm caused the ports in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and Tyre to halt activity for a while. Five fishermen were even lost in Sidon's waters for seven hours before they could be located three kilometers to the north of the city's shore.
A huge number of trees and plants were destroyed along Lebanon's southern cost. Electricity networks were also affected by the sand storm. Even Beirut International Airport was partially affected. A weather specialist at the airport said the storm came from the desert lying between Egypt and Libya stressing that Lebanon had not witnessed such a storm in 25 years. At noon, dusty winds were replaced by heavy rain. Weather sources expect the storm to last a couple of days in the form of rain and snow.
A meeting of the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group was canceled today due to the inability of the Lebanese and Syrian delegations to fly to Naqoura as a result of the sand storm that struck the country. The meeting, previously scheduled for 11:00 this morning, was to be held to discuss one complaint filed by Lebanon against Israeli violations of the April truce understanding. Lebanon filed the complaint in protest for Israeli shelling of the village of Haddatha which resulted in the damaging of three civilian homes and two civilian cars and the destruction of the village's mosque.
The accord monitored by France, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and the United States, bans attacks to and from civilian areas.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks with army commander Emile Lahhoud. The premier later headed a meeting attended by Lahhoud, Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura, Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara, the government's judicial advisor Suheil Baugi and a number of military officials. After the meeting, Sanyoura told reporters discussions centered on military pay scales but added some points needed more time to be resolved and they will be finalized during the next ten days. Sanyoura reiterated the government's main principle in maintaining financial stability in the country saying " no spending from outside the budget and no additional commitments without adequate resources".
As a continuation of his consultation efforts, prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today visited Siryaan Catholic Patriarch Antoon II Hayek. The sect's religious officials handed the premier a memorandum of seven points stressing the implementation of UN Resolution 425, the Taef Accords, administrative reform, the independence of the judicial body, and the return of the war-displaced to their homes and villages. Hariri later held talks with the sect's Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Ayyass who also handed the premier a memo stressing real national conciliation as a solution for the country's different economic and political problems. Hariri later headed to the Hamra headquarters of the Evangelic sect where he met Priest Salim Sahyoon. Hariri this evening will hold talks with members of the Maronite League at government palace.
Minister of State Michel Eddeh today represented Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri during the opening of a symposium on Arab-Francophone press at Bristol Hotel in Beirut. In his opening speech, Eddeh centered on recent Israeli proposals to enforce a withdrawal from south Lebanon in return for security guarantees from the Lebanese government. Eddeh said the Israeli proposals aim at misleading the intentional community while resolution 425 is very clear, he added, and it needs no further explanations or discussions. Eddeh said the Israeli government has refused to implement the resolution for 20 years adding that Israeli attacks continue on Lebanese civilians on a daily basis. The conference groups media representatives from Lebanon and France and it tackles the following topics: Francophone Policy, Media and Authority, Press Development, and Economic Press.
Participants in the conference are expected to hold talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi. They will also visit touristic sites in Zahle, Baalbeck, and Jbeil and the Grotto of Jeita.
Countries participating in the meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Qatar today condemned the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. The conference's media, political and judicial committee called on the international community and especially the United Nations to work on implementing Security Council Resolution 425 which calls for Israel's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from all Lebanese territories. Countries also called on the international community to pressure Israel to pay Lebanon compensations for losses caused by Israeli attacks. The meeting demanded Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails be freed and attacks on Lebanese civilians to cease. The conference's administrative and financial committee ratified a decision to grant Lebanon financial, economic, technical and humanitarian assistance. It also called on member countries to participate in Lebanon's reconstruction drive and to offer support for residents of occupied land. The opening session yesterday was dominated by warnings from all sides that the Middle East peace process was dying and disintegrating.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz who was also present during the opening session urged all Muslim countries to support Lebanon's stance over Israel's recent proposals for a conditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. Boueiz blasted the Israeli offer as a trap for Lebanon and a media campaign aimed at covering up Israel's hard-line policies towards Mideast peace.
The Canadian government today issued an official report to the Lebanese embassy in Ottawa voicing support for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425 without any conditions. Canada also reiterated support for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. In another development, the Lebanese ambassador to Canada Dr. Assem Jaber today met Canada's deputy foreign minister for Middle Eastern Affairs, Claude Neverdore, on the occasion of the day of solidarity with occupied land in Southern Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. Jaber explained to the Canadian official the meaning behind commemorating the 14th of March in Lebanon after 20 years of Israeli occupation.
Acting Finance Minister of State Fouad Sanyoura this afternoon headed to Abu-Dhabi to participate for a three-day visit where he is expected to participate in the United Arab Emirates' International Economic Conference.
Sanyoura who represents Lebanon at the conference will also hold talks with a number of high-ranking officials in Abu-Dhabi. He will also hold a meeting with the Lebanese Labor Council there. Before leaving Beirut, Sanyoura this morning held discussions with Minister of Culture and Higher Education, Fawzi Hobeish and Minister of Technical and Vocational Training, Farouq Al-Barbir on suggested salary increases for teachers in technical and vocational schools and the Lebanese University. The issue is expected to be resolved during a follow-up meeting to be scheduled later.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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