For a second day today, the Lebanese parliament held a legislative session headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and a number of ministers and deputies. Yesterday, parliament ratified the withdrawal of legislation on the public sector rank and salaries scales. This at the request of the government which promised to submit the draft law in a period of five weeks after the necessary funds for its ratification are being ensured. But today?s session differed from yesterday's which was marked by a remarkably relaxed atmosphere. This morning the session was opened at 10:30 only to be adjourned at noon following a strong disagreement marked between prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and House Speaker Nabih Berri.
The premier demanded delaying discussions on a draft law related to the public sector pay scales. Deputy Elie Al-Firzli who proposed the draft law agreed on the postponement of discussions but House Speaker Berri did not. He immediately presented the draft law for voting, which prompted prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and a number of ministers and deputies to leave the session. Today's session was also scheduled to tackle two key issues among the remaining eight bills on its agenda: the organization of audio-visual media frequencies and a demand by opposition deputies to cancel the $2 billion borrowing project approved in the budget law earlier this year.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa today held extensive talks at the presidential palace in Baabda with President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik AL-Hariri during a lunch held at his honor. The discussions were held in the presence of Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. During the meeting, Al-Sharaa handed President Hrawi an oral message from his Syrian counterpart Hafez Al-Assad. Al-Sharaa did not hold a press conference after his meeting with Lebanon's three top leaders. But he reiterated from Baabda the common Syrian-Lebanon stance concerning Israel's latest maneuvers. The Syrian top official said both countries agreed that Israel must withdraw from South Lebanon without conditions to comply with UN resolution 425 which calls for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. Al-Sharaa also held talks today with member of the diplomatic corps in Lebanon at Vendome Hotel in Beirut. Yesterday and upon his arrival from the Syrian capital, Sharaa held discussions at Boustrous Palace with his Lebanese counterpart Faris Boueiz. Top on their agenda of talks were recent Israeli proposal for a conditional pullout from South Lebanon.
Al-Sharaa told reporters at the foreign ministry late last night quote with the advent of Netanyahu's government, the Israelis have started to run away from their commitments and have started to look for ways, means and excuses to undermine any chance for a comprehensive peace in the region. Israel recently voiced its readiness to withdraw in return for security guarantees without signing a peace treaty or normalizing ties with Lebanon. Lebanon, Syria, and the Arab League rejected the proposal as a trap.
As part of his consultation bid that aims at discussing with Lebanese officials ways to overcome socio-economic difficulties in the country, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today received for a ninth day of consultations former prime ministers Rashid Al-Soloh, Shafik Al-Wazzan, and Amin Al-Hafez. Former prime minister Rashid Al-Soloh stressed the necessity of solving current economic problems in the country adding that ratifying the draft law which controls sea property violations might provide the budget with an additional sum of 500 million US dollars. Al-Soloh also called on activating the role of the Lebanese resistance in South Lebanon also stressing the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian tracks. Al-Wazzan described the situation in the country as very delicate calling for more objective in political reasoning. For his part, former PM Amin Al-Hafez praised the premier's consultation efforts. He also pointed out the importance of administrative reform as a basis for solving current problems. Al-Hafez added recent maneuvers by the Israeli government aims at emptying UN resolution 425 from its essence. Late this evening, Hariri continued his talks with deputies Talal Al-Mirebi, Saleh Al-Kheir, Wajih Al-Baarini and Elie Skaaf. Hariri's consultations center on ways to finance the return of the war displaced to their homes and villages, funding public salary rises and development projects in underprivileged areas of the country.
Apart from his consultations with Lebanese officials, prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri also held talks today with the Tunisian Minister for higher education Al-Dali Al-Jazi. The Tunisian minister later reiterated his country's support for Lebanon and the Lebanese people in their ongoing efforts to regain their occupied territories from Israel. The Tunisian official also praised the reconstruction drive and the development bid in the country. He told reporters at the government palace he hoped economic and cultural ties between the two countries will be boosted in the near future.
Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt today returned from Iran after a four-day official visit. Agence France Press reported that Jumblatt held talks with Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi on ways to achieve greater cooperation between the two countries. The source added the Iranian president called for unity among factions in Lebanon. Earlier this week, Jumblatt said his Progressive Socialist Party was discussing ways of participating in resistance with Hizbullah in South Lebanon.
A draft agreement to avoid double taxation was today signed between Lebanon and Norway. The accord was signed between Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura and a number of Norwegian officials. After the signing, Sanyoura described the draft agreement as part of the government's strategy to boost ties with friendly countries. The acting finance minister also stressed the importance of such agreements in encouraging foreign investment in Lebanon's different economic and vital sectors.
During a ceremony marking the end of his posting in the country, the Japanese ambassador to Lebanon Yasuji Ishigaki was officially honored by Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. Boueiz described Ishigaki's mission as one marked with great dynamism. Boueiz added Ishigaki highly contributed to the reactivating of bilateral ties between Tokyo and Beirut. For his part, the Japanese ambassador said Japan's relationship with Lebanon has always been strong but increased with the recent exchange of visit by high-ranking officials from both countries.
Famous Opera Singer Luciano Pavarotti is to sing in Beirut in the first week of May. Pavarotti is not only singled out as a tenor but as a philanthropist. Adding to his remarkable voice that has earned him a place in history, Pavarotti is worldly recognized as a lover of mankind. In 1996, he organized a concert featuring big names in music to fund the Pavarotti music center in Bosnia.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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