News from Beirut April 29  1998 ...Search

Pay-scales bill: a major topic on cabinet's agenda tomorrow

The diplomatic flurry sweeping the region recently will certainly be on the cabinet's agenda in its extraordinary meeting tomorrow. However, another important and controversial issue, the new pay-scale bill will also top the cabinet's agenda.

Acting finance minister Fouad Seniora today said the bill to raise public sector pay-scales will be sent to the parliament for approval by the end of the week. The issue will be discussed by cabinet when it meets tomorrow.

Sources said discussions will center on ways to fund the pay-scales increases for 1996, 1997, and 1998, adding the entire bill will be referred to parliament. Sources added taxes proposed last week will be restructured tomorrow to make sure no paid citizens are not affected by the increases.

Seniora ruled out any increase in fuel price and said a tax on cellular phones was more likely, stressing that it should not affect consumers. The minister confirmed that at the most price increases should reach one or two and a half per cent on some products. He also warned that inspectors will be watching closely for any unjustified price increases.

President of Fiji in Qana

The President of Fiji Kamisese Mara was welcomed in Beirut airport yesterday by foreign minister Fares Boueiz.

Mara is on a five-day visit to Lebanon in which he will inaugurate the Unifil Fijian battalion's new headquarters in Qana.Four Fijian soldiers were wounded during the Israeli shelling of the battalion headquarters in Qana on April 18, 1996, in which 107 civilians were killed and the headquarters were damaged.

Butros-Ghali in Qana: 425 can neither be amended nor annulled

During a visit to the southern city of Qana, Butros-Ghali, the secretary-general of the Francophone conference reiterated his solidarity with Lebanon and particularly with the people of Qana. Ghali said UN Resolution 425 can neither be amended nor annulled unless by the UN general assembly or the security council. He said he would continue to work to achieve an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Lebanese lands.

After talks with house-speaker Nabih Berri, Ghali reiterated Israel should implement Resolution 425 without any conditions attached. He also said the Francophone group can help Lebanon promote its case in the international community.

In preparation for elections

In preparation for municipal and mayoral elections scheduled from May 24 to June 14, Interior minister Michel Murr formed a four-member committee to monitor and provide legal and security measures for these elections.

The four-man committee, to be based in Baabda, Tripoli, Zahle, and Sidon, is to liaise with qaimaqams and governers as well as the army and security forces, listen to any complaints, and order investigations where necessary. The committee is to be headed by Major General Rafik Haddad, the inspector-general of the Internal Security forces.

Murr also issued memoranda to concerned authorities emphasizing that "any violation will result in strict disciplinary measures and might be referred to court."

Fakhoury in Libya for economic talks

Agriculture minister Shawki Fachoury had a meeting on Monday with Libyan counterpart Mohammed Bin Ramadan, the head of the Lebanese industrial association, Jaques Sarraf, and other economic figures.

After the meeting Fachoury said both Lebanese and Libyan sides "are studying the prospects of setting up joint companies in south Lebanon and in African countries where there are large Lebanese communities."

Fachoury who is now in Libya for economic talks said there are "golden" opportunities for partnership between Lebanon and the North African country.

Boueiz signs cooperation pact with Belgium

Foreign minister Fares Boueiz and William Ancion, minister for the French-speaking community in Belgium, yesterday signed a wide-ranging agreement to enhance cooperation in investment, culture, scientific research, and healthcare.

The agreement will strengthen ties between Lebanon and Belgium for both ministers stressed that the agreement isn't just verbal. The Belgian minister pledged special support for social and healthcare projects in the under developed areas of northern Bekaa.

Seat belt crackdown postponed

The government decision to prosecute motorists who do not belt up was yesterday postponed indefinitely by interior minister Michel Murr. The decision was originally due to come into effect on May 1. The traffic department of the Internal Security Forces issued a statement yesterday saying that a crackdown on motorists who do not use seat belts would not begin until it had been decided how to deal with vehicles that are not equipped with seat belts.

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