The Israeli inner security cabinet today adopted UN Security Council Resolution 425 but with conditions. The meeting gave unanimous approval to a proposal by Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai to implement 425 on condition that Lebanon guarantees the security of Israel's northern border. Today's vote was the first official Israeli approval of 425.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also stressed Israel approved a pullout but without a formal peace treaty. Netanyahu added this is the first time in 20 years that his country is officially declaring its intentions to leave Lebanon under 425 on condition of necessary security arrangements.
Lebanese leaders today reiterated their call for the full implementation of UN Resolution 425 saying Israel must withdraw without conditions or negotiations on security arrangements. Before meeting Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad in Damascus, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri stressed Israel must withdraw without any conditions. Their meeting is part of ongoing Arab contacts to face regional challenges. Upon his arrival in Damascus last night, Hariri held a series of discussions with top Syrian officials on the stalled Mideast peace process. In Lebanon, House Speaker Nabih Berri dismissed Israel's approval of a conditional withdrawal saying it was a political scheme to quote launch aggressions and destroy South Lebanon. For his part, Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz also rejected the Israeli move saying Lebanon will not be forced into security negotiations with Israel that will render resolution 425 meaningless. He was speaking at a joint press conference he held at Beirut's International Airport with Iranian Foriegn Minister Kamal Kharazi before he concluded an official visit to Lebanon.
In Abu Dhabi, President Elias Al-Hrawi held a press conference stressing Lebanon will not renegotiate the terms of UN resolution 425. Hrawi described the Israeli proposals as maneuvers adding Israel must withdraw from all Arab territory before comprehensive peace can be achieved. The Lebanese president who arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday on a three-day official visit called on Arabs to take a firm stance on freezing normalizing ties with the Jewish state. Concerning the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, Hrawi said his country will not accept the resettlement of Palestinians adding this decision is in their own interest. President Hrawi later inaugurated the new headquarters of the Lebanese embassy in Abu Dhabi.
About 32,000 public schools did not attend classes today as part of a two-day strike that started yesterday over end-of-service compensation. Teachers are protesting against a retirement draft law that will grant private school teachers compensation based on their full salaries while those in the public sector will only be granted 85 to 90% of their monthly salaries. During the two-day strike, public sector teachers held meetings across Lebanon issuing statements stressing their demands for better end-of-service indemnities.
A roadside bomb blast last night killed six civilian workers near the village of Kawkaba in the eastern sector of the zone Israel occupies in the South. The bomb exploded as a truck carrying the construction workers left the Israeli allied position of Ahmadiyyeh. A seventh worker was wounded seriously and was taken to the Majayoun hospital. The dead are all from the village of Kfar Kila: Abbas Abdullah Fares, Ali Abbas Fares, Abbas Ali Rashid Fares, Hussein Abbas Fares and Abbas Ali Hammoud. The injured was named Hassan Abbas Fares.
At the finance ministry, Lebanon today signed an agreement with Canada aiming to avoid the system of double taxation between the two countries. The accord was signed in the presence of Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura, the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Marchand, and members of a joint delegation that helped finalized the negotiations of the agreement. The director general of the Lebanese Finance Ministry, Dr. Habib Abu Sakr signed the economic accord with the head of the Tax Legislation Division at the Canadian Finance Ministry, Jean-Marc Dery. After the signing, Sanyoura said this follows another agreement previously signed between the two governments for the promotion and protection of investments in both countries. For his part, the Canadian ambassador viewed the tax and investment treaties as key factors in strengthening economic cooperation and bilateral cooperation between Canada and Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz today headed for Rome for a two-day official visit. Boueiz will hold talks with top Italian leaders and Vatican officials on the Middle East peace process and the Israeli proposal of a conditional pullout from South Lebanon. Also on the agenda of talks will be Lebanon's European-Mediterranean partnership agreement negotiations.
Lebanon's foreign minister is due to meet Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and his counterpart Lamberto Dini. Boueiz discussed his visit yesterday with the Italian ambassador to Lebanon Carlo Calia.
Lebanese police yesterday issued a statement saying drivers and passengers who do not fasten their seat belts will be fined starting May 1st. The fine, which is to be tripled on the second offense, is an estimated sum of 50,000 Lebanese Liras. The statement added drivers must ensure all the people in their vehicles have buckled up their belts too.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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