Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Mideast Envoy, Victor Posovalyuk, arrived at Beirut's International Airport at 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. Upon his arrival, he told reporters his mission to the region can be considered as a step towards reactivating peace efforts exerted by the international community which is currently not satisfied with the deadlock in the Mideast peace process. Posovalyuk noted the constant coordination between his country, the United States, and the European Union in this regard. The Russian envoy later headed to Boustrous Palace where he held talks with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz on regional developments.
Posovalyuk handed Boueiz a letter from his Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov which centered on the current situation in the region. At the end of his talks in Beirut, the Russian Mideast envoy will head to Damascus this evening where he will hold talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa during which he is expected to hand him a letter from the Russian Foreign Minister.
Cabinet meets this evening at the presidential palace in Baabda. Top on the agenda of talks will be the subject of the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections. The government has withdrawn the project of the 1% tax increase from the agenda of discussions after it was opposed by President Elias Al-Hrawi and House Speaker Nabih Berri. Cabinet sources said the draft public pay scales law will be distributed to the ministers during the session. Each minister is expected to record his comments on the project regarding its funding resources, an issue to be discussed in cabinet after a period of two weeks. Cabinet will also discuss the visits of Russian Mideast Envoy Victor Posovalyuk, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Lebanon. Cook is expected to arrive in Beirut this evening shortly before or during cabinet's session. At noon, Cook held talks in Syria with President Hafez Al-Assad.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri last night held talks with around 200 Lebanese intellectuals, including doctors and teachers, from the Lebanese Committee for Peace. The meeting was attended by deputies Rashid Al-Khazen, Mahmud Awwad, Habib Hakim, and Antoine Haddad. Hariri stressed the importance of cooperation and agreement between Lebanon's legislative and executive authorities. He also told the gathering political parties are very important in the political life of every democratic country. The premier added the formation of national parties that group Lebanese from different sects and areas should be encouraged in the country. On the subject of civil marriage, Hariri said despite the issue's importance, it should not be considered as a priority. He also voiced his opposition to such a proposal and the way it was presented in the country.
At parliament today, House Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted by visiting deputies as saying he has always rejected the 1% tax increase on company turnovers. The deputies also quoted the house speaker as saying his closed-door meeting yesterday at parliament with ministers Mahmud Abu-Hamdan, Ayyoub Hmayyed, Ali Harajli, and Yassin Jaber was held to discuss the subject of civil marriage. Berri reportedly said he agrees on the subject of civil marriage if it serves as a step towards abolishing political sectarianism in the country. Berri was also quoted by the deputies as welcoming UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Lebanon adding the information that he has indicates that the visit was not scheduled to discuss Resolution 425 but he had no objections to any discussions in this regards.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today opened a workshop on National Archives and Documents at the Riviera Hotel in Beirut. The workshop tackled current methods used in archiving important documents in the public administrations of the country. It was attended by Minister of Administrative Reform Bshara Merhej, the head of the parliamentary Justice and Administration Committee, deputy Shaker Abu-Sleiman, and UNDP representative in Lebanon, Ross Mountain. Merhej referred to the National Archive Center as the only governmental institution in Lebanon that preserves and collects historical documents. For his part, Abu-Sleiman considered national archiving as essential in any project aimed at administrative reform. The UNDP representative praised the efforts of the workshop stressing the importance of national archiving in preserving national heritage and culture.
The Council of Maronite Archbishops today held a meeting at Bkirki headed by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir. The council praised Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's current consultations with Lebanese officials adding this has enabled the premier to listen indirectly to the demands of the Lebanese people from their concerned representatives.
After the meeting, the council issued a statement saying discussions centered on the situation in South Lebanon in light of recent Israeli proposals concerning the implementation UN Resolution 425. The statement, read by Father Youssef Tawk, called on the Christians of Lebanon in particular and the Lebanese in general to work on implementing Pope John Paul II?s apostolic guidance as one way of improving the general situation in the country.
Lebanon and Tunisia today signed an agreement to form a joint council of Lebanese and Tunisian businessmen. The council is expected to work on boosting economic ties between the two countries. The agreement was signed by the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Beirut, Adnan Al-Qassar and the head of the Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and Agriculture, Al-Hadi Al-Jilani. The accord was signed during a meeting of the Council of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Trade and Agriculture in Arab countries held at the Commodore Hotel In Beirut.
Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh today held talks at the ministry with the Greek Ambassador to Lebanon George Georgio. The Greek ambassador was accompanied by a delegation from The Doctors of the World Association-Lebanon Branch. Discussions centered on the possibility of developing health ties between Lebanon and Greece. The doctors' delegation will work on the establishment of a new medical center in the Southern frontier village of Marjayoon in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Popular Help.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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