Prime Minister Hariri held talks with US President Bill Clinton and the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Hariri stressed to the American administration the readiness of Lebanon and Israel to reach peace agreements with Israel within three months if Israel agrees to start negotiations from where they left off. The Lebanese premier added if Israel proves to work seriously on this issue, a peace agreement can be reached within a three-month-period. During a joint press conference he held with Albright, the Lebanese premier reiterated Lebanon's concern for the different possibilities available for reviving peace talks in the region.
Hariri said he believes that Minister Albright shared Lebanon the same concern. For her part, Albright welcomed Hariri and praised the progress achieved in Lebanon's reconstruction process.
US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross discussed with Prime Minister Hariri the outcome of his talks with US President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and other US officials. Ross stressed after his meeting with Hariri that the Lebanese premier held useful talks with top officials in the US administration. Ross added his country plans to kick-start peace negotiations on all tracks in a bid to reach a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East. He added the US has been trying to break the deadlock in the Mideast peace process over the last 15 months. The US envoy quoted Albright as saying the US insists on achieving progress in the peace talks.
Prime Minister Hariri today holds a second day of extensive meetings in the US. Hariri is expected to meet US foreign ministry official Christopher Ross, a former US ambassador to Syria. Hariri will later hold a meeting with Arab ambassadors to the US. He is also expected to conduct a TV interview before heading to a ceremony held by the Lebanese embassy in Washington in his honor.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today reportedly described Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's visit to Washington as very useful especially regarding his expected discussions with UN chief Kofi Annan and other US officials on the extension of the UNIFIL mandate in South Lebanon. Berri was also quoted by visiting deputies as saying that he will renew his call for holding an extraordinary round of discussions in parliament in a bid to ratify some important projects. Berri also called on the joint parliamentary committees to hold consecutive sessions starting next week to finish studying some projects such as the public sector pay scales and the law of rent. On Municipal and Mayoral elections, Berri reportedly said the local elections proved that Lebanon's people are less sectarian than the country's leaders.
In parliament today, the committee of immigrants and foreign affairs discussed the recent Israeli offer regarding the conditional implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425. The meeting was headed by the deputy Ali Al-Khalil and attended by foreign minister Faris Boueiz and some deputies. The committee stressed Lebanon's rejection of the proposal which aims at misleading the world opinion and dividing the unity of the Syrian-Lebanese tracks. The committee reiterated Lebanon insists on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel rejecting any kind of negotiations on the resolution. The committee also called on the UN to extend the mandate of the UN Interim Forces in South Lebanon.
The newly elected municipal council of Beirut today held its first meeting headed by the new president of the council Abdel Menem Al-Arees. The president praised the former municipal council that worked within limited capacities to improve the capital. He added the new council will continue working on the city's infrastructure. It will also improve administrative work in the municipality of Beirut.
Meanwhile in Sidon, the newly elected members of Sidon's municipal council today met following yesterday's call of the Governor of the South Faysal Sayegh. The council elected engineer Hilal Qoubrously as president and engineer Mahmud Al-Hariri as vice president. The election was attended by the governor of the South and the 21 members of the council. The council members have been at odds over the last few days as to the election of their president and vice-president.
Israeli warplanes today carried out mock air raids over the village of Nabatieh. Israeli artillery this morning shelled the outskirts of the village of Habboush and the Swayadaa outpost. Meanwhile, Israel's Radio reported the injury of two Israeli soldiers in a road-side bomb near the village of Barasheet. In another development, a security source in Tibnin said that an Israeli patrol sneaked at midnight into the area between the freed village of Tibnin and the occupied town of Beit Yahoun where it exploded a house there. Residents said the house belonged to judge Mustafa Ghtaimy. The Israeli forces also destroyed another house in the occupied village of Atteereh.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group met yesterday at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura to look into a complaint filed by Lebanon over Israel's shelling of the village of Joun in Iqlim Al-Kharroub. After the meeting, the panel strongly criticized Israel's bombardment of Joun adding it was a violation of the April understanding. A statement by the group also stressed that targeting civilian areas is inadmissible. The group positively noted the quality of the evidence presented by the Lebanese delegation over the shelling. It also noted that an earlier resistance attack near Jezzine was conducted away from civilian populated areas. The shelling of Joun last Thursday resulted in the damage of 11 civilian homes, a civilian car, and an electricity pylon.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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