At the government palace, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today told reporters the public sector pay scales draft law will be distributed tomorrow during cabinets session to be held at the presidential palace in Baabda. This, Hariri added, after including the appropriate sources of funding in the draft law which is expected to be ratified by cabinet after being added to the pay scales of military personnel. The premier expected the law to be ratified in a period of two weeks.
At the presidential palace in Baabda, President Elias Al-Hrawi today held talks with House Speaker Nabih Berri on recent developments. After the meeting, Berri only described the visit as traditional. Hrawi today reportedly reiterated Lebanons stance regarding UN Resolution 425 calling on Israel to unconditionally and immediately withdraw from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. The president was quoted by visiting deputy Jihaad Al-Samad as saying Lebanon will always believe in the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian tracks calling for the achievement of a comprehensive and just peace in the region and the liberation of all Arab land from Israeli occupation. Regarding economic decisions expected to be taken by cabinet during its session tomorrow at Baabda, Al-Samad quoted the president as saying he supports taxation which will not burden low-income earners. Hrawi also held talks today with Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul and Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Aram I Kishishian.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir today received a phone call from Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri regarding his recent visit to the Vatican. At Bkirki, Sfeir reportedly called for the implementation of Pope John Paul IIs apostolic guidance as one way of solving current problems in the country. Sfeir also held talks today with deputy Joubran Tawk who later said the current situation in the country dictates the need for a new political crew. Sfeir later met deputy Elie Skaff who told reporters at Bkirki referring to the upcoming presidential elections, the country needs new blood which will give its citizens a new hope for the future. He also saw no problem in any amendment of Article 49 of the constitution if this will give the chance for more candidates to run for presidential elections especially that President Hrawi himself does not want any extension of his term. The Maronite Patriarch also held discussions with the head of the Phalanges Party George Saadeh. Sfeir is expected to head the monthly meeting of Maronite Archbishops tomorrow at Bkirki.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today opened the 85th meeting of the council of the General Union of chambers of commerce and industry in Arab countries at the Commodore Hotel in Beirut. The premier saw the worlds current efforts towards achieving economic reform, the opening of world markets, and the reduction or deletion of custom duties between countries as presenting serious challenges to the Arab world and its markets. He also stressed the importance of the public sector in achieving economic development. The premier explained his government's efforts to re-build the countrys infrastructure as part of a plan to encourage foreign investments and to reactivate the economic situation in Lebanon after years of war. Hariri also hoped the recent economic agreement signed between Lebanon and Syria would encourage such deals among Arab countries which might lead to the establishment of a real and efficient Arab Common Market.
Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura was informed today of the United Arab Emirates support for the Lebanese government's political and economic policies. UAE top officials also expressed their countrys desire to boost ties with Lebanon on all levels. This during a meeting he held at Abu-Dhabi with Industry Minister Sheikh Ahmad Bin Rashed Al Maktoom, Transportation and Communication Minister Ahmad Al-Tayer and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Mohammed Al-Kharbashi.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai today held talks with the head of the Israeli Allied Militia in South Lebanon, Antoine Lahd in Tel Aviv. Mordechai told reporters after the meeting the Israeli government is now searching for possible ways, agreed upon by all concerned parties, to implement UN Security Council Resolution 425. He also wished to pacify some of Lahds worries saying the Israeli cabinet will discuss tomorrow issues related to South Lebanon in a way which does not need Lahd to worry about his position in the South. He added if the conditions for the implementation of resolution 425 are ensured, this will go along with the ambitions of what he called South Lebanon's Army. Mordechai also told reporters Israel will agree without any hesitation on the militia's independent existence in the South under the command of the Lebanese army or even as part of it. For his part, Lahd refused a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon adding this was not in Israels interests.
The head of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, General Jeremy Konorote today honored members of the Irish command operating in the village of Tibnin in South Lebanon in the presence of Irish Defense Minister Michael Smith. Konorote reiterated UNIFELs support for the achievement of peace in the near future. He honored Irish soldiers on behalf of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressing deep appreciation for their efforts to preserve security in South Lebanon.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is in session in the village of Naqoura to look into one complaint filed by Lebanon last week over Israeli shelling of the village of Haddatha which damaged three civilian homes, two civilian cars and the villages mosque. The panel was scheduled to meet yesterday but the storm prevented the Lebanese and Syrian delegation to fly to Naqoura.
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook is expected tomorrow in Beirut for discussions on regional development. Lebanon will also receive tomorrow Russias deputy foreign minister Victor Posovalyuk who will hold talks with top Lebanese officials on the Middle East peace process. Posovalyuk will later head to Syria for similar talks. In Damascus, the Russian official is expected to hand a letter to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa from his Russian counterpart.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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