Today, the Christians of Lebanon and the whole world celebrated Good Friday. President Elias Al-Hrawi attended the Good Friday Mass at Mar Antonius Church in Zahle. After the sermon, Hrawi in his word tackled a number of current political files in the country such as his call for an optional civil marriage, the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections, and recent Israeli maneuvers on UN Resolution 425. Hrawi added his proposal for an optional civil marriage law was misunderstood saying it was never aimed at abolishing religion or threatening national co-existence in the country.
Hrawi also called on all the Lebanese to participate in the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections.
In Bkirki, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir this morning headed the Good Friday Mass. Following his sermon, Sfeir reminded the Lebanese of the apostolic guidance Pope John Paul II delivered during his visit to Lebanon. Sfeir, who praised the reconstruction drive in the country, called on the government to pay more attention to the subject of administrative reform in a bid to handle the difficult economic situation in the country.
Israel today officially informed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of its latest conditional proposal of implementing Resolution 425 demanding security guarantees from the Lebanese government. The Israeli statement was handed over to all members of the Security Council today. The statement also called on the Lebanese government to enter into direct negotiations on the resolution with Israel.
In Lebanon, the head of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine today downplayed the possibility of any Israeli military strike on Lebanon. But Shamseddine expressed doubt at the efforts of the UN Secretary General concerning the Mideast peace process. He even doubted the goals of Annan and his strategies. The Shiite religious leader added Resolution 425 is very clear and it does not need further explanations or negotiations.
Following two days of rioting at Roumieh prison, the situation returned to normal today. Security and prison officials are now busy restoring the damage caused during the riot. 18 injured including inmates and a number of policemen are being treated in hospital. Meanwhile, about 40 inmates were taken to other prisons in Zahle and Tripoli to undergo investigation concerning the rebellion. Some families of the prisoners today held a sit-in outside Roumieh to protest the situation. The issue will be discussed during cabinet's session scheduled for next Wednesday. The general situation of Lebanese jails will also be tackled during a meeting of the parliamentary Committee for Human Rights next Thursday.
Lebanon today commemorated the day of Lebanese Detainees in Israeli jails. Torture is systematic in these jails and prisoners are being held under conditions which contradict with basic human rights. Most of them were detained without trial or charges. The director General of the Ministry of Information Mohammed Obeid, who also heads the National Committee for Detainees, today announced a series of activities will be held to mark this memory. This will include the laying of the foundation stone of the Al-Assaad Sports City on the site of the previous Ansar detention center and the call for the Union of Parliamentarians of Lebanese Origin to hold a conference in Beirut in this regard.
About 118 Moslems died yesterday in Mena while performing their Hajj Pilgrimage. Saudi sources said preliminary counts reported that two Egyptians, one Kuwaiti, 24 Indians, 7 Pakistanis, and two Indonesian died in the incident. But sources say no Lebanese were reported dead up to now. The tragedy occurred yesterday afternoon despite the exceptional measures Saudi authorities have taken this year to prevent accidents. For his part, US President Bill Clinton today expressed concern for the latest tragedy in Mena.
A Lebanese economic delegation headed by Minister of Trade and Economy Yassin Jaber continues its visit to the United States. The delegation is holding talks in Washington and New York on the possibility of boosting economic cooperation and encouraging investments between the two countries.
Lebanon?s ambassador to the US, Dr. Mohammed Shatah, today said the seminars and meetings held between the Lebanese delegation and the US Ministry of trade and a number of financial institutions and investments corporations in the US will be very useful in boosting the economic sector in Lebanon.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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