News from Beirut April 28  1998 ...Search

Lebanon in the spotlight in Cairo again

After separate visits made last week to Cairo by President Hrawi and Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad, Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today in Cairo with president Hosni Mubarak. The Israeli offer to withdraw from south Lebanon on condition Beirut grants security guarantees was discussed between Mubark and Netanyahu. However, neither Egyptian nor Israeli officials made any statements about the contents of the talks or reported any progress.

In another development, European envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos is expected to visit Beirut Thursday.

Hariri in Baabda after Damascus

After a short visit to Damascus yesterday, Hariri returned to Lebanon and met with president Elias Hrawi. Hariri briefed president Hrawi on the results of his talks with Syrian officials concerning coordination of diplomatic activities to counter Israeli moves related to Resolution 425.

Moreover, Cabinet will meet in Baabda for an extra ordinary session on Thursday. The pay-scales bill which was approved on Friday night will be further discussed before handing it to parliament for ratification.

Security situation in the South

Tension prevails in South Lebanon and the West Bikaa a day after fierce clashes between Israeli occupying troops and Lebanese resistance fighters. Lebanon has filed five complaints with the five-nation ceasfire monitoring group over truce violation by Israel. The group is expected to meet in Nakoura on Monday. Israeli attacks wounded five civilians and damaged property. An Israeli helicopter also fired an air-to-ground missile at a civilian car driving in QaQaiet-el-Jissr; the driver escaped unharmed. But a tank belonging to the Finnish batallion serving under the UN peace-keeping force in the south was hit while the blue-berets were trying to assist the driver.

Butro-Ghali: Lebanon, Resolution 425, and the Francophone Community

During a news conference at the end of the first day of the 12th conference of the general assembly of  the Francophone agency for higher education and research, the former UN secretary general Butros Butro-Ghali emphasized world opinion as "key to south's freedom." "we can make certain that world attention continues to focus on the issue, while at the same time preserving the integrity of the UN as mediator, "said Butros-Ghali adding that "too many mediators could make the task of resolving the conflict even more difficult."

Earlier in the day, President Hrawi had decorated Butros-Ghali with the Order of the Cedars, Lebanon's highest medal of honor, in tribute to his support of Lebanon during the Israeli aggression in April 1996.

In his speech at the Unesco palace Butros-Ghali said that both he and the international Francophone community could be counted upon to uphold the ideas that lie at the very heart of the UN, adding that this applied particularly to Un resolutions and especially Resolution 425."

In his speech, Butro-Ghali praised the outstanding and unique qualities of Lebanon which allow it at one and the same time to be an international center in the Arab world and one of the strongest pillars of the Francophone world in the Middle East."

Dalloul in France

French Press Agency quoted a Lebanese official source as saying today that defense minister Mohsen Dalloul will pay an official visit to France between the 14th and 17th of May 1998. The source explained that the visit will reinforce military co-operation between the two countries.

Debate over tax continues

The cabinet's decision to impose a two per cent tax on all imports is still the subject of a wide-range debate. The supporters of the cabinet decision think that financing the pay-scale justified the measures, but many of them called for devising a new taxation system. Opponents, on the other hand, believe the new tax will add to the country's social problems. In a television interview last night, industry ministry Nadim Salem said the plan would backfire on industries. Salem pledged to work on exempting industrial raw materials from the new tax. Nadim Assi, head of the association of Beirut merchants, said the increase came at the wrong time as Lebanon's productivity is low. Metn MP Nassib Lahoud and Beirut MP Najah Wakim criticized the plan because it will affect all Lebanese irrespective of their income and will make the country's social problems worse.

Lebanon 2000: open-skies policy

Transportation minister Omar Miskawi today announced that Lebanon aims to adopt an open-skies policy year round at the beginning of the next century. Miskawi was speaking at the opening session of  the International Aviation Organization' regional workshop taking place in Beirut. Nineteen countries are participating in the meetings which are headed by the chairman of the International air transportation union, John Gunter, who is of Lebanese origin.

Roman burial site unearthed in Abra, Sidon

A Roman burial site was accidentally unearthed last Thursday by construction workers in Abra, 2 km east of Sidon. The find is believed to be the most significant recent discovery in Sidon area. While digging to erect a housing complex, construction workers found two three-meter-deep caves. The caves lead to a five-by-six meter hall which branches out into several burial chambers. The walls are covered with colored drawings, portraying animals, birds and plants with many-colored inscriptions.

Antiquities director Camille Asmar believed the burial site dates back to the Roman period. He considered the discovery "very important" and promised to take measures to protect the site and added the directorate of antiquities was to start working on deciphering the inscriptions to learn more about the site.

Sidon MP Bayiya Hariri visited the site which raised public curiosity and prompted the directorate to ban further visits.

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