Lebanese skies today witnessed intense activity of Israeli warplanes over villages in South Lebanon, the Bekaa, and the capital. Mock air raids were also performed over the southern village of Nabatieh and the Iqlim Al-Touffah mountain ridges. Israel also shelled the outskirts of Sojod, Al-Rayhan, Mazraat Okmata and Louayzeh. But no casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese resistance in the South today issues a statement saying one of its groups this morning targeted Israeli forces in the outpost of Bir Kallab adding it scored direct hits in the attack.
The Lebanese parliament today ratified the withdraw of the public sector pay scales draft law for further discussions and studies by cabinet. But this still preserves parliament's right to retain the draft law and ratify in case the government fails to study the law within the promised period of five weeks. This was announced this morning during parliament's legislative session which was headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and a number of ministers and deputies.
Parliamentary sources traced a sort of commitment by the prime minister and the house speaker to complete studying the project within the determined period. At the beginning of the session, 15 deputies voiced their opinion stressing the necessity of maintaining balanced development in the country and ratifying the public sector pay scales draft law. Some deputies also warned of recent Israeli proposals of a conditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. Parliament will be in session, for a second time this week, tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, a sit-in was held outside parliament by Lebanese University teachers, students and employees to protest the delay in endorsing the wage and salary scales. Members of the National Institute for Administration and Training also participated in the sit-in protesting government's failure to grant cost of living adjustments for the years 1996 and 1997.
Before leaving to parliament to participate in its legislative session, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri continued his consultations with Lebanese officials for an eighth day in a bid to discuss current socio-economic, political, and developmental issues in the country. Hariri this morning held talks with the head of the Makassed Islamic Charitable Institution, deputy Tammam Salam. After the meeting, Salam said the responsibility of solving the country's problems should not merely lie on the shoulders of prime minister Hariri adding the premier is exerting serious efforts to resolve current issues that are of great importance to the country at this point in time. Salam also stressed the importance of The premier later held talks with former minister Fouad Boutrous who refused to issue any statement after the meeting. Prime Minister Hariri also held consultations with deputy Mahmud Awwad. Awwad told reporters at the palace he called on the government to pay more attention to necessary development in the underprivileged outskirts of the city of Jbeil.
Current national, political, and economic issues will be the subject of talks at Bkirki between Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri on Friday morning. This comes as part of Hariri's consultation bid regarding vital issues in the country.
After holding a closed-door meeting with Sfeir, the premier is scheduled to discuss current developments with a number of Maronite Archbishops.
In another development, the Maronoite Patriarch today held talks with the head of the Phalanges Party, George Saadeh. Saadeh said he briefed Sfeir on his consultations with prime minister Hariri last week. The Maronite Patriarch is expected to head to Rome next Sunday to continue preparatory discussions in the Vatican for the "Synodos of Asia" of which Sfeir is a member.
Minister of Oil Shahe Barsoumian today issued a declaration decreasing accordingly customs duties on fuel oil from 500 LL to 200 LL per 20 liters. Both fuel oil companies and gasoline stations are to share the customs equally. Meanwhile, Barsoumian added, the price of 20 liters of gasoline will remain 10,500 LL. The head of the syndicate of gasoline stations owners, Samy Al-Braks today voiced the syndicate's agreement to the minister's decision which was reached after a series of intense negotiations conducted by the minister last night with the associations of petrol station owners and distributors.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa is expected in Beirut this evening for a two-day official visit. Al-Sharaa is scheduled to hold talks tonight at Boustrous Palace with his Lebanese counterpart Fairs Boueiz. He will also meet President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri tomorrow. His discussions with Lebanese officials are expected to center on recent Israeli proposals regarding UN Security Council Resolution 425. He will also hold talks on bilateral relations between the two countries and recent developments in the region and the Arab world.
At Boustrous palace, Lebanese foreign minister Faris Boueiz this morning received UNESCO's director general Frederico Mayor. The two officials signed an agreement for the construction of the international center for humanities in the city of Jbeil. After the signing, Boueiz spoke about the importance of such an agreement to the education sector in Lebanon. For his part, Mayor told a press conference UNESCO chose the city of Jbeil for its special history of civilizations. Mayor added concrete steps have been made for the center's construction. The UN officials had earlier visited the country?s national museum. He expressed great admiration for the rehabilitation efforts that have been exerted in reviving the old treasure house. Before heading to the Mathaf area, Mayor held talks at the Education Ministry with Minister John Obeid. The Education Minister praised UNESCO?s efforts in boosting cultural cooperation between the different societies of the world and its everlasting bid to preserve heritage and civilization.
UNESCO's director general will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at Kraytem.
Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz today announced UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will visit Beirut on the 20th of this month. Annan's official visit is aimed at inaugurating the ESCWA headquarters in Beirut. Boueiz also said Annan is expected to hold talks with high-ranking Lebanese officials on recent developments in the Mideast peace process. Annan's inauguration of ESCWA was previously scheduled for February 14. But the UN chief had canceled his visit due to the recent standoff between Iraq and the UN over weapons inspections of presidential sites in Baghdad.
The Lebanese ministry of emigrant affairs is organizing a conference to enable Lebanese emigrants from all over the world to meet one another in Beirut. The Conference will be held on March 19. The conference will be marked by the active participation of more than 75 Lebanese emigrant associations and clubs. This according to the ministry's head of Public relations. The conference is expected to play a major role in allowing emigrants to actively participate in their country's development. It will also strengthen their relationship with their mother country.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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