The Israeli army coordinator of activities in South Lebanon Uri Lubrani today said the Israeli government has recently decided to set aside negotiations with Lebanon and Syria at this point in time. The decision also dictates the government to direct its concentration on UN Security Council Resolution 425 which quote does only include security arrangements.
He added Israel is no longer formally demanding a peace treaty and normalization before implementing the resolution. Lebanese Foreign Minster Faris Boueiz yesterday said Lebanon is not ready for negotiating with Israel in a bid to achieve the implementation of Resolution 425 which calls on Israel to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Lebanon. In this regard, Syrian official press today reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal for withdrawing Israeli forces from Lebanon is only another trap set by the Israeli government.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai will travel to Paris this week to discuss proposals for an Israeli withdrawal.
The Arab-Regional Conference on higher education was opened this morning in Beirut. The conference was opened under the patronage of President Elias Al-Hrawi who stressed the important role of universities in Lebanon in the development of the country's vital sectors. Hrawi also reiterated Lebanon's call for the international community to pressure Israel to withdraw from Lebanon and respect UN resolutions. The conference was attended by UNESCO's director general Frederico Mayor who arrived in Beirut over the weekend for a visit that aims at participating in the international campaign for the protection of archeological sites in the Southern port city of Tyre. During his visit, Mayor is also expected to sign an agreement to found the international center for human and social sciences in the city of Jbeil.
The opening of the conference was also attended by House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and number of minister, deputies, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in Lebanon. Twenty Arab countries participate in the conference represented by general directors and secretaries of their education ministries, including the Palestinian Minister for Higher Education Hanan Ashrawi. About 200 representatives of public and private universities, student organizations and international organizations also participate alongside 15 UNESCO officials in the fields of higher education and scientific research. During the opening, Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdel Aziz Bin Saoud described the conference as an expression of a joint Arab concern and a clear desire to render higher education more efficient and responsive to the needs of Arab societies.
For his part, UNESCO's director general Frederico Mayor said higher education can contribute to what must be the essential goal of the 21st century, a culture of peace. Mayor added higher learning institutions can contribute to peace by fostering active and informed citizenship which is the basis of real and lasting democracy. Mayor concluded by saying sound scientific advice can do much to correct short-sightedness in policy-making in areas where long-term implications are of major importance.
Today's conference will be followed by a similar one which will be held in Paris next October. The Beirut Conference paves the way for future connections between Lebanese and Arab universities. The conference, entitled "what type of higher education do we want for the Arab World in the 21st century", aims to set guidelines for the 21st century on how to improve the quality of higher education in the Arab World. Over the next few days, participants will discuss a new plan for the development of higher education and the exchange of training and expertise between countries of the Arab world. The conference marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of UNESCO's headquarters in Lebanon. It also coincides with the re-opening of the UNESCO palace in Beirut after it underwent renovation and rehabilitation.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today continued consultations with high ranking Lebanese officials on current socio-economic and political issues in the country. At Government Palace this morning, the premier held talks with a delegation from the Northern Parliamentary Bloc For Change and Development. The head of the delegation deputy Ahmad Karameh later reiterated the bloc's support for maintaining the planned 37% budget deficit. He also told reporters at the palace the current crisis in the country is a political one adding it reflects negatively on the overall economic situation in Lebanon. Karameh voiced the bloc's call for the ratification of the pay scales draft law. Prime Minister Hariri later met deputy Pierre Daccache. Discussions centered on the government's development plan in the rural and underprivileged areas of the country.
This afternoon, Hariri also held separate talks with deputy Sleiman Franjieh and deputy Nayla Moawwad. He later received a delegation from the Baath Party Bloc in parliament. Late tonight, the premier will head a meeting of the National Decision Bloc to discuss the current and vital issues in the country.
Also at government palace today, the ministerial committee in charge of studying the audio-visual media file held a meeting headed by deputy prime minister and interior minister Michel Al-Murr. The meeting was also attended by members of the National Media Council.
Cabinet will hold its session tomorrow as planned. This was revealed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Harare to reporters after the opening of the UNESCO palace in Beirut this morning. But Hariri added no decision has been reached concerning the place where cabinet is expected to be held. The public pay scales draft law will top the agenda of talks during tomorrow's session. Sources of funding for the project will be re-studied by the council of ministers. The meeting will be followed by parliament's general session due to be held on Wednesday.
The American foreign ministry's delegate ambassador David Newton today held discussions at Boustrous Palace with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. After his meeting with Boueiz, the American official told reporters at the Lebanese foreign ministry he informed Boueiz on the US Administration stance concerning Iraq and the current row over UN arms inspections. For his part, Boueiz stressed the necessity of implementing UN Resolution 425 which calls for Israel's unconditional withdrawal from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. Newton later held a news conference at the editors syndicate in Beirut. The American official is expected to visit about 11 countries in the region to explain the American position in this regard.
Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdel Aziz who participated in the opening of the Arab Regional Conference on Higher Education this morning also held a news conference at the press syndicate to discuss the condition of the Arab child and his future. As president of the Arab Gulf Program for UN Development Organizations, Prince Talal suggested a better future of higher education in the Arab world can be achieved through the establishment of an Arab open university at a regional level, unifying dispersed efforts in the area of education. The Saudi Prince also hoped today conference would come up with clearly defined and applicable recommendations.
Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani today left for Saudi Arabia at the official invitation of Saudi Emir Bader Bin Abdel Aziz Bin Saoud. In Riyad, Qabbani will participate in the third national festival for culture and tradition which is held on a yearly basis in the kingdom.
Transportation minister Omar Miskawi, minister Elias Hanna and deputy Hussein Yateem bade Qabbani farewell at Beirut's International Airport this morning. At the airport, Mufti Qabbani told reporters he will hold discussions with top Saudi officials on issues of interest to the Arab World.
The First Arab Conference for Communication Development in Arab Countries today concluded its discussions in Beirut. The conference, opened under the patronage of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri was attended by communication ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria, Oman, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and Lebanon in addition to representatives of international communication companies in these countries. The conference is organized by Arabcom.
A Lebanese delegation comprised of scientists and political officials is expected to arrive in Germany later today. Their one-week visit comes at the official invitation of the head of the German Parliament (Bundestag) Professor Stosmith. The schedule of this trip was announced in parliament last week during a press conference held by the head of the Education Parliamentary Committee Deputy Bahiyya Al-Hariri along with the German Ambassador to Lebanon Peter Witting. Al-Hariri said the visit enables the committee to explore the possibilities of bilateral cooperation in the fields of education and technical and vocational training. Deputy Bahiyya Al-Hariri added the visit can be considered as a follow-up to an agreement signed between Germany and Lebanon during the year 1995 in this regard. She also said bilateral cooperation in the field of vocational and technical education will help boost the industrial sector in Lebanon. The visit includes a number of lectures delivered by concerned officials from both sides on the inter-relationship between efficient technical and vocational training and the needs of the job markets in both countries. For his part, the German Ambassador said discussions between the Lebanese delegation and the German side will also center on the possibilities of coordination between the two countries' private and public educational sectors, adding Lebanon can also benefit from the special system followed in Germany regarding vocational and technical training.
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