Saudi Arabia today witnessed extensive talks between Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Saudi leaders and top officials as part of ongoing Arab contacts to save the deadlocked Middle East peace process. Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri yesterday arrived in Saudi Arabia where he held talks with King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz and a series of meetings with top Saudi officials. Hariri briefed the kingdom on the ideas asserted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Minister Robin Cook during their visit to Lebanon regarding the implementation of UN Resolution 425. The Lebanese premier also met Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz and Foreign Minister Saoud Al-Faysal. He is later expected to head to Jeddah where he will meet Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz before leaving for Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amro Moussa who arrived in the kingdom in a surprise visit also met their Egyptian counterpart Saoud Al-Faysal. They later held talks with the Lebanese premier who reiterated Lebanon's rejection for recent Israeli maneuvers concerning the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425. Discussions between the Arab officials centered on recent developments in the region and recent Israeli proposals which aim at separating the Syrian-Lebanese tracks.
President Elias Al-Hrawi late this afternoon arrived in the United Arab Emirates for a two-day official visit. Hrawi was received by UAE president Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan during an official ceremony. The two presidents later headed to the presidential headquarters where talks centered on bilateral ties and regional developments. Hrawi who is accompanied by a Lebanese official delegation including Agriculture Minister Shawki Fakhoury and Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul will inaugurate the new building of the Lebanese embassy there tomorrow. Hrawi had put the foundation stone for the building during a visit to the UAE five years ago. On Thursday, the Lebanese President will leave for Dubai where he will meet President Maktoum Bin Rashed Al Maktoum before heading to Beirut later that evening.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today considered recent Israeli suggestions for a conditional pullout from South Lebanon as implicitly including another "May 17" proposal because they demand negotiations and security guarantees.
Berri was speaking to a delegation of residents from the occupied zone in the south that visited him in Ain Al-Teeneh this morning. Berri added the country is united on issues concerning the South and the Lebanese resistance there. He stressed that reconstruction in the country is an essential part of resistance adding that everyone who stands in the way of this drive is in one way or another collaborating with the enemy.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi today continued talks with Lebanese officials. This morning, he visited Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani. Kharazi said after the meeting discussions centered on bilateral ties between Lebanon and Iran and on the role of the Islamic resistance in South Lebanon. Kharazi stressed national unity in Lebanon is the basic capital of the country. He also expressed happiness at the unity he witnessed among the Islamic community in Lebanon. Kharazi later this evening held talks with Hizbullah's secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and a number of officials at the group.
Israeli forces today detained the civilian Fadi Qassem Hamdan from the village of Shibaa and led him to the Khiam Detention Center. Israel also eased the siege on Shibaa allowing residents entry to and exit from the village. Since February 14, only residents above the age of 40 could leave or enter the village. Shibaa was put under a one-month Israeli siege at the beginning of this year. Meanwhile, Israeli shells fell on the area between Mayfadoon and Western Zawtar. Israeli also hit today the outskirts of Sojod-Rayhan in Iqlim Al-Touffah. For its part, the Lebanese Resistance in the South carried out three attacks on the Israeli outposts in Ali Attaher, Sojod and Bir Kallab.
The Director General of the Ministry of the War Displaced Hisham Naseriddine today held a press conference at the ministry's headquarters in Damour presenting the ministry's accomplishments throughout the past five years and outlining future repatriation plans. Naseriddine also detailed the sums spent by the ministry to execute plans and programs to enable a comprehensive return of Lebanon's war displaced to their homes and villages. The ministry recently prepared a booklet which includes detailed lists and explanations of the ministry's future plans. An amount of over one billion US dollars is needed for their comprehensive return.
Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej today announced a number of recommendations issued during a conference on national archiving that was held in Beirut between the 18th and the 19th of this month. The press conference was attended by the head of the board of directors of Lebanon's National Archive Center, Antoine Khawaja, and a number of organizers and participants in the event. Merhej stressed of transferring a draft law on national archives to the concerned authorities for further study and future ratification. The minister discussed possible plans aimed at modernizing government records' management and national archiving in the country.
A major basketball victory was scored last night in Beirut by the Sagesse Club which defeated Algeria's Boufarik 80-72 in a fast-paced match in Ashrafieh. Thousands of fans also gathered around the site to view the game on a big-screen television amid horn-honking jubilation in the streets of the capital. Congratulations, Lebanon.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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