Extensive meetings are being held in the country just four days before local elections are to be held in the Mount Lebanon Governorate next Sunday. At the government palace this morning, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri met deputy Ali Hassan Khalil for a second time in 24 hours.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Khalil downplayed the possibility of a meeting to be held tonight between the prime minister and House Speaker Nabih Berri, but added the two leaders are continuing contacts in this regard on a daily basis and the atmosphere is positive. Hariri held similar talks today with deputies Abdel Latif Al-Zein, Istfan Douaihy, Marwan Hmadeh, Abdel Rahim Mrad, Assem Qansou and Mesbah Al-Ahdab. Hariri stressed the importance of national consensus at this period in time.
Apart from local elections, the prime minister received the French Ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau. Talks centered on the preparations underway in the country for the expected visit of French President Jacques Chirac to Lebanon at the end of this month.
Northern MP Mohammed Abdel Latif Kabbara today voiced support for the consensus prevalent in Beirut between Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and Deputy Tammam Salam, adding this is for the good of all the citizens of the capital. Kabbra said similar efforts are being implemented in Tripoli to enable educated youth to take part in the city's municipality. He also explained these perspectives are agreed upon by all the deputies of the North who want the best for their cities.
In Sidon, meanwhile, Deputy Bahiyaa Al-Hariri continues her efforts to reach a consensus concerning the municipality of the city. For this purpose, Al-Hariri is scheduled to meet deputy Mustafa Saad this evening.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir today received a phone call from Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri which centered on Sfeir's latest visit to the Vatican. Sfeir received similar calls from former House Speaker Hussein Al-Husseini and former Prime Minister Rashid Al-Solh. In Bkirki, the Maronite Patriarch held talks with the French Ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau who specified three goals for the expected visit of French President Jacques Chirac to Lebanon at the end of this month: holding talks with Lebanon's three leaders, inaugurating the Palais des Pins and opening the conference of Francophone municipalities. Deputy Naila Mouawwad also held talks with Sfeir on the expected local elections.
President Elias Al-Hrawi today held talks with the commander of Lebanon's Army General Emile Lahhoud at the presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on the internal situation and the situation in South Lebanon. Hrawi also met today the Turkish Construction Minister Mohammed Battalli. He later said he is visiting Lebanon to participate in an exposition of construction material held in Beirut adding his visit stresses the extent of cooperation between the two countries and the areas of joint investment. Hrawi later received deputy George Qasargy and Judge Ahmad Al-Mouallem.
Minister of Administrative Reform Bshara Merhej today received two members of the US Congress, Mathew Martinez and Sylvester Rise, accompanied by the head of the Arab-American National Trade Association Elie Abboud in the presence of deputy Bahaa Al-Deen Itani. Merhej later said he explained to his visitors Lebanon?s stance regarding peace negotiations in the Middle East stressing the importance of the role played by the US as a mediator.
Merhej also said he discussed with the delegation UN Security Council Resolution 425 and the necessity of its implementation.
A Lebanese civilian woman, Fadwa Ahmad Al-Khaled, was injured today while she was farming in the village of Qaqaiyyat Al-Jiser. The injury was caused by a mine field explosion believed to be planted during Israel's onslaught on Lebanon in April 1996. Meanwhile, Israel shelled today areas in Iqlim Al-Touffah, Jabal Al-Rafii, Arab Saleem, and Al-Litani. For its part, the Lebanese resistance attacked the Israeli outpost of Sojod and the outskirts of another position in Swaidaa. The Amal Movement also announced it attacked an Israeli patrol in Wadi Al-Houjair scoring direct hits.
In another development, two Lebanese were deported from the zone Israel occupies in South Lebanon. Ibrahim Hussein Hashem and his wife Khawla Delly were expelled from the village in Shibaa. This mounts to ten the number of Lebanese deported by Israel from the same village since the beginning of this year.
The death sentences of Wissam Nayef Issa and Hassan Nada Abu Jabal were executed today in Tabarja. This is the first time during President Elias Al-Hrawi's term that a death sentence be carried out in a public square where the murder took place. The two have been convicted of the murder of Sharbel Antoine Souqayem and his half-sister Marie Amm after robbing them on June 3, 1995 in Tabarja. They were both arrested on June 13 of that year. President Hrawi had signed the death sentences on May 15. The Mount Lebanon criminal court issued the death sentence which was later approved by the appeals court under magistrate Ahmad Mouallem.
At the Bristol Hotel in Beirut, the meetings of the Arab Satellite Communication Corporation (Arabsat) were opened today. The opening was attended by the directors of Arabsat and officials from Lebanon's Post and Telecommunications Ministry. The meetings will be concluded on the 27th of this month. Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri will head the general sessions scheduled on May 25 and 26. This is the first time that Arabsat meets in Lebanon. The conference also witnesses the highest number of participants in an Arabsat meeting with more than 100 people including 14 ministers from
Arab countries taking part in the meetings. A satellite is due to be launched in Lebanon in March 1999. Future Television and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) are the only Lebanese companies broadcasting over Arabsat.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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