Presidential palace sources today stood firm on stances previously articulated by President Elias Al-Hrawi regarding his proposal for an optional civil marriage law. The sources said that the bill was ratified by cabinet and it should be transferred to parliament. The sources reiterated that the voting is final and that what is now required is the signature of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in order for the bill to be transferred to parliament where the premier can object on it inside the house.
Today, Hrawi criticized what he described as extremism practiced by some committees in the country which object to his civil marriage proposal. Hrawi was speaking during a meeting with the Committee of Lebanese Children, including 250 children, in the presence of Minister of Social Affairs Ayyoub Hmayyed and governors from different Lebanese areas. Hrawi replied to statements made by some figures who announced rejection to his civil marriage proposal, giving the supreme authority in the country to constitutional institutions in this regard. Hrawi also stressed on the necessity of preserving liberty in Lebanon as a basic item in the constitution. The children visited Baabda on the occasion of the Children Day and they came from different Lebanese schools. The president hoped they will be raised on nationalism and the love of their country calling on schools to teach their children that Lebanon is a country for all and not for any of its sects..
House Speaker Nabih Berri today met at parliament Joseph Sullivan, the head of the American delegation to the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group accompanied by the American Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones. Sullivan is expected to be appointed president of the panel at the beginning of next April.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks at government palace with his deputy Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr and Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul. The premier is now busy preparing a summary of his consultations which he held during a period of almost one month with different political, economic and religious in the country. A statement in this regard is expected to be issues next week by the premier's media office.
At his residence in Kraytem, the Lebanese Premier will meet this evening delegations that participated in the first meeting of immigrants which was held in Beirut. The premier will conduct with them an open dialogue on the current issues in Lebanon and the region. Minister of Immigrants Talal Arslan had announced, during a conference in Carlton Hotel, the recommendations of the conference. He called on the Cultural League in the World to preserve its role and its institutions. Arslan was speaking at the end of the first conference for immigrants committees and clubs. The recommendations considered the ministry as the immigrants' official reference, preserving their interest and rights and working on activating their role in their country. The conference, which hosted 250 participants representing 150 immigrants' clubs and committees, will be held on a yearly basis in Beirut.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir today reiterated complete agreement between Christian and Moslem religious authorities concerning their rejection of civil marriage. Sfeir expressed readiness for a common religious summit to group Moslem and Christian religious figures.
Sfeir added one cannot start with civil marriage to abolish political sectarianism added the latter should be abolished from the spirits of the Lebanese first. The Maronite Patriarch stressed that abolishing sectarianism is not the only subject that was not implemented under the Taef accord. Sfeir was speaking to a delegation from the state-run Tele Liban?s News Department which visited him this morning in Bkirki.
Former Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss today said the subject of optional civil marriage should only be presented in an atmosphere of understanding. Hoss stressed on the formation of the national committee to abolish political sectarianism as stipulated first by the Taef Accord. Hoss added the committee will be in charge of planing for ways to gradually abolish sectarianism. He added the issue needs constructive dialogue accompanied with a sense of national responsibility. Meanwhile, the Northern Bloc in parliament today said, during a meeting it held in Tripoli, attention should be directed to more serious and vital issues in the country such as the upcoming presidential, municipal and mayoral elections. The Bloc of Development and Change also discussed the visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Lebanon and his talks which centered on Resolution 425. It also called on the resolution's unconditional implementation stressing the unity of the Lebanese and Syrian tracks. For his part, deputy Jamil Shammas criticized the way the civil marriage bill was presented in cabinet adding its articles were not discussed by ministers. He also criticized the timing of the issue saying the country is going through a tough period which needed more attention directed at current socio-economic problems.
Israeli warplanes today performed a number of air raids on South Lebanon shelling different areas in Iqlim Al-Touffah. Israeli artillery also hit the outskirts of Nabatieh Al-Faouqa with Phosphoric shells. Warplanes launched six rockets on Mazraat Okmata. The air-raids were accompanied by inspection flights and mock air-raids over Nabatieh and Iqlim Al-Touffah.
Israel also shelled this morning Jabal Al-Rafii and areas in Nabatieh where phosphoric shells fell near civilian areas but no casualties were reported. Meanwhile, the resistance in the South announced this morning that it attacked Israeli outposts in Dabshe and Sojod saying it scored direct hits. The resistance also claimed responsibility for a road-side bomb it planted on the Annan-Jezzine road directed at an Israeli-allied militia patrol.
Arab Foreign ministers will later today hold a meeting called upon by Egyptian Foreign Minister Amro Moussa in the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo and in the presence of the head of the league Ismat Abdel Majid. The meeting will discus the outcome of the visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the region up to now. Arab Foreign Ministers will also review recent deadlocks faced by the Mideast peace process.
The Lebanese delegation which will participate in the meeting left Beirut at noon headed by Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz.
Meanwhile, Annan concluded his visit today to Damascus and headed to the Gaza Strip on the fourth leg of his tour which included up to now Egypt, Lebanon and Syria and will be concluded by visiting Israel.
Lebanon is participating in the conference for developing communication in the world which opened its sessions today in Malta. The meetings are to be held under the patronage of the World Union for Communication. During the opening session, discussions centered on the different ways of developing communication especially in developing countries. The meeting will also tackle possible ways through which developing countries can constantly keep up with the latest technological achievements in the field. The meeting will discuss ways to bridge the gap between the developed and the developing worlds in this regard, encouraging thus investments in this field between the different countries.
Lebanon will be represented by a delegation from the communication ministry and the private Ogero company. Arab delegations to the conference held a meeting prior to the opening session to discuss the main issues that will be presented by the Arab world adopting decisions previously taken during their conference in Beirut last month.
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