Two Lebanese civilians were wounded this morning in Israeli shelling of the village of Baraasheet. Around 70 shelled fell on the village which lies just north of the zone Israel occupies in the South wounding a 30-year-old man in the neck and shoulder while a 13-year-old boy suffered minor injuries. Lebanon is expected to file a complaint to the April international monitoring group over the shelling which also damaged several houses. Earlier today, resistance guerrillas from the Hizbullah Movement attacked an Israeli outpost in South Lebanon.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri who is on a two-day official visit to Austria today reaffirmed there can be no security without peace. The premier today held talks with his Austrian counterpart in Vienna. Discussions centered on bilateral ties and recent developments in the stalled Middle East peace talks. The Lebanese Prime Minister stressed that UN Security Council Resolution 425 clearly called for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon adding that Lebanon will not giver Israel security guarantees in return for the withdrawal of its forces from the South and the Western Bekaa. The premier also said Lebanon and Syria are ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel if it withdraws from the occupied Golan Heights and Lebanese territory. Aside from political discussions, Hariri is also holding talks on economic cooperation with Austrian officials and businessmen. He is accompanied by Industry Minister Nadim Salem, Acting Minister of Finance Fouad Sanyoura and a number of economic and political advisors.
Iran today warned that Israel's conditional suggestion to withdrawal from South Lebanon was a trap. Some Israeli leaders have proposed plans for a conditional Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in return for security guarantees. Iranian officials said recent Israeli air-raids in the South prove the offer was not serious. Iran?s foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi is expected to arrive to Lebanon on Monday. He is then due to hold discussions with top Lebanese leaders on bilateral ties and recent regional developments.
President Elias Al-Hrawi today vowed to push for the ratification of the voluntary civil marriage bill which was initially approved in cabinet last week. Hrawi also reiterated his recommendation of the proposed law. He was speaking to a delegation of college students who visited him at the presidential palace in Baabda this morning. The president told students his call for the adoption of the voluntary civil marriage should be heard adding the country needs a change in this regard.
President Hrawi's stance on civil marriage was also rejected today by a number of religious leaders. Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir reportedly said this morning politicians should concentrate on issues like the return of the war-displaced to their homes and villages. Sfeir was speaking to a delegation representing the Islamic group Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiah that visited him in Bkirki. He was later quoted by the delegation as welcoming an Islamic-Christian summit to be held to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, in Sidon today Muslim and Christian leaders converged in response to an invitation by the Southern city?s Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Salim Jalaleddine to discuss voluntary civil marriage. A statement was issues after the meeting stressing the proposal challenged the country's spiritual conscience.
The President of the upper house of the German Parliament and Prime Minister of the federal state of Lower Saxony Gerhard Schroeder said he believed Lebanon is on the verge of economic uprising. The German official and the accompanying delegation today concluded their brief visit to Beirut. But before leaving, Schroeder described his visit as a success saying contacts have been made between Lebanese and German businessmen. A larger delegation of German businessmen discussed investment opportunities in Lebanon. Schroeder who also heads the German Opposition Social Democratic Party yesterday said that economic development would help push forward the Mideast peace process. He was speaking after talks with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace. During his short visit, Schroeder also held discussions with President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, before addressing Lebanese businessmen at the Marriott Hotel last night.
The chairman of the state-run Tele Liban, Jean Claude Boulos, yesterday told a press conference the station in virtually bankrupt, with unpaid electricity and telephone bills and no funds to pay more than 500 employees. Boulos warned employees would remain unpaid at the end of this month if the government fails to come up with an emergency rescue plan to save the station. A statement from the union of TL employees said members will meet on Monday to decide on possible action.
Due to a planned visit to Lebanon by French president Jacques Chirac, municipal and mayoral election for the area of Beirut originally scheduled for May 31 have been indefinitively postponed. This was announced yesterday by Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr who set no dates for when these polls would take place. Murr also told a press conference that up to 100 new municiplalities will be established ahead of the local polls.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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