Government sources today downplayed any possibility of postponing municipal and mayoral elections in Beirut or even dividing Beirut into different electoral areas. The sources said these suggestions are meant to distort the image of the local ballots. The sources reiterated efforts are being exerted to reach consensus in the city adding Prime Minister Rafik
Al-Hariri trusts the Beirutis and their concern for national balance. The government sources also praised Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr for his organization of the electoral process in Mount Lebanon which resulted in free and fair elections in the governorate.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today discussed the local electoral preparations in the capital with deputy Tammam Salam and Minister of Administrative Reform Bshara Merhej. Merhej stressed after the meeting there is a great concern among all the people of the capital to reach national balance in the capital. He also said the current trend in Beirut is directed towards enabling all religious and political parties in them capital's municipality council. In anther development, the premier met the French ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau. Discussions centered on the final preparations for French President Jacques Chirac's visit to Lebanon expected on next Friday.
Deputy Tammam Salam, who visited Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning, later headed to Dar Al-Fatwa where he held talks with Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani preparations for local elections in the capital. He also stressed from Dar Al-Fatwa that suggestions to review the municipal and mayoral election law are only obsessions. He called on all the residents of the capital to transcend these fears and work on reaching comprehensive consensus instead. Salam also reiterated the call for an apolitical municipal council to be elected in the capital.
In North Lebanon, all efforts to reach consensus failed up to now. Deputy Misbah Al-Ahdap today said the battle in the North is an internal political battle. Meanwhile, the list of independents in the city is getting more popular and parliamentary support. Sources in the city expected this list will be complete soon to include 24 candidates for 24 municipal seats in the municipal council of Tripoli. Observes believe the electoral battles in the North Lebanon Governorate are expected to be the hottest in areas like Batroun, Bsharri, Zhgarta and Qbayyat.
Tonight is the final deadline for candidates running for municipal and mayoral elections in Saida to submit their applications. Around 1400 applications have been submitted up to now. Meanwhile, contacts are still continuing to reach consensus in the city. A meeting was held last night in the city between Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, deputy Bahiyya Al-Hariri, the head of the political office of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiyyah, Ali Sheikh Ammar, and Abdel Rahman Al-Bizri, the son of former deputy Nazeeh Al-Bizri.
They discussed some names of candidates that will be agreed upon to form the city's municipal council. Meanwhile, sources of deputy Mustafa Saad say that the deputy is preparing to form a list with his brother Oussama Saad.
Israeli warplanes today carried out air raids on the outskirts of the village of Barasheet, but no casualties were reported in the attack. For its part, the Lebanese resistance rocketed the Israeli outpost overlooking the village. The resistance also carried out a number of similar attacks on Israeli positions yesterday.
Israeli General Amiram Levine today threatened Israel will step up its attacks on South Lebanon as long as resistance attacks continue. Meanwhile, the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is still in session at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura to look into six complaints filed by Lebanon and Israel over claims of truce violations.
From Oslo, the Norwegian Defense Ministry said that Norway may pull its peacekeeping troops out of Lebanon after 20 years of service under the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon. The Norwegian defense minister saw that his country's battalion in Lebanon can devote more effort in serving Baltic countries under a peacekeeping battalion to be set up in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Lack of personnel in Lebanon seems to be another cause for their pullout. About 614 Norwegian officers and personnel are serving under UNIFIL in South Lebanon.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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