News from Beirut June 25  1998 ...Search

Swap operation to be carried out this evening

Following a series of negotiations, Lebanon will regain a number of detainees and bodies of martyrs from Israel this evening.

Sources say that at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon, a French plane will leave Beirut's International Airport carrying the remains of the Israeli soldier who died during the failed commando operation in Ansariyeh last year. At 8:00 in the evening the plane will land in Tel Aviv and it will return to Beirut at 11:00 p.m. carrying the bodies of 40 Lebanese resistance men. An official reception ceremony will be held at the airport to receive the bodies. The swap operation includes 28 bodies from Hizbullah, nine from the Amal Movement, and three from the Communist Party.

Meanwhile, the detainees will be handed over tomorrow through the Kfar Falous border crossing. They will be accompanied by International Red Cross Representatives who will hand them to one of the military centers belonging to the Lebanese army to be distributed later according to their areas and political affiliations. Around 60 detainees are involved in the swap operation: 50 detainees from the Khiam prison including 34 from Hizbullah, 13 from the Amal Movement and three from the Communist Party, and 10 detainees coming from prisons inside Israel including two from Hizbullah, four from the Communist Party and four others having different affiliations.

Recorded reactions to the expected swap operation

Hizbullah sources today said the operation resulted from a series of negotiations that extended over nine months with direct coordination with the prime ministry. The sources also praised the efforts paid by the International Red Cross Committee to render the operation successful. The sources added the operation is an accomplishment for the Lebanese resistance and all the Lebanese people. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hariri met this afternoon deputy Mohammed Fneish who later expressed comfort at the procedures followed in the swap. For its part, the Amal Movement handed the remains of the dead Israeli soldier to the Lebanese army earlier today.

Resistance attack kills two Israeli soldiers

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and four others wounded early this morning during a resistance attack on the Abbad outpost inside the zone Israel occupies in the South. Military sources in Tibnin said the attack was followed be fierce clashes during which two Israeli helicopters landed in the area of the attack and carried the casualties to Israel.

The same sources added more than 120 shells fell on the outskirts of Baraasheet, Majdel Selem, Attamriyah, Assawwana, and around the Litani River. Three houses were destroyed in the shelling belonging to Mohammed, Ali and Hussein Sultan in the outskirts of the town of Assawwana.

Electricity and water resources were also destroyed in the village.

During the day, the resistance issued a number of statements saying their operation was carried out at a very close distance which resulted in a high number of casualties among the Israelis. But sources said the attack will not affect the swap operation expected to be carried out between Lebanon and Israel later today.

Moratinus discussed with Hariri a European peace move to be launched on Monday

Europe's Mideast envoy Miguel Angel Moratinus today discussed with Prime Minister Hariri plans being prepared by the European Union concerning the Middle East peace process. Moratinus later said he updated Hariri on his latest discussions in Syria and Israel. He added the EU's foreign ministers will meet next Monday in Luxembourg to discuss a strategic work plan aimed at kick-starting the peace process. The European envoy reported Hariri's satisfaction with the outcome of his latest talks in Washington, New York, and Atlanta. Moratinus described Hariri's visit to the US as very positive. Moratinus will later head to Cairo to continue his Mideast tour.

For his part, Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura who participated in the meeting praised Europe's role in supporting the negotiations regarding the issue of the European-Mediterranean partnership.

High diplomatic activity at the government palace

Prime Minister Hariri met today the Tunisian foreign minister Saeed Bin Mustafa who arrived yesterday in Lebanon on an official visit to the country aimed at boosting bilateral ties. Bin Mustafa today updated the prime minister on the outcome of the talks he held in Lebanon so far. He added his mission is that of cooperation and friendship saying his visit aims at boosting his country's ties with the Lebanese government on all levels. The Tunisian foreign minister also revealed his country is working on reaching a partnership agreement with the European Union in a bid to boost investment opportunities between Tunis and Arab and Foreign investors including Lebanon.

Prime Minister Hariri had earlier discussed the situation in a number of  Lebanese areas with deputies Qabalan Issa Al-Khoury, Ismail Sukkareyeh, Faysal Al-Dawood, Jihad al-Samad and Saleh Al-Khair. Al-Khair discussed with the premier the state of drinking water in the Northern area of Al-Minieh. Also among the visitors of the government palace today were deputies Nuhad Saayd and Mahmud Awwad.

Hrawi receives a letter from his Eritrean and Tunisian counterparts

President Elias Al-Hrawi today received Eritrean Trade and Industry Minister Ali Sayyed Abdullah at the presidential palace in Baabda. The Eritrean official handed Hrawi a letter from his Eritrean counterpart Asyas Afourqi. The letter explains his country's viewpoint from the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict and ways to resolve it.

President Hrawi also received another letter from his Tunisian counterpart Zayn Al-Abedeen Bin Ali. The message was delivered by the Tunisian foreign minister Saeed Bin Mustafa who is on an official visit to Lebanon. He told reporters at the presidential palace the letter expresses his country's admiration to Lebanon's different accomplishments in reconstruction.

Parliamentary committees ratified two pay scales clauses

Joint Parliamentary committees and for a third day of discussions today ratified two clauses from the public sector pay scales draft law under discussion in parliament. The two clauses are related to retirement pensions. However, Deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli downplayed the possibility of forming sub-committees to complete discussions. Al-Firzli added parliament insists on accomplishing these discussions completely.

The committees will continue their discussions next Tuesday.

Boueiz at odds with Hariri at cabinet's session last night

Prime Minister Rafik A-Hariri yesterday headed the first cabinet's session in three weeks at the government palace. Hariri updated the ministers on the outcome of his recent talks in the US, France and Syria. But Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz said cabinet's approval was required before the prime minister decides on such an official foreign trip. But Hariri told Boueiz he did not need cabinet's approval for foreign trips abroad which he personally finances. The premier also stressed that he always updates the government and the president on the outcome of his different trips abroad. But Boueiz stormed out of the meeting unconvinced of Hariri's views.

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