Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today discussed a number of regional developments with the American ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones. After his talks with the premier at government palace, Jones expected an American peace move in the near future, a step aimed at activating the different tracks involved in the Middle East peace process. Jones added the deadlock witnessed in the Lebanese-Syrian peace tracks will not last for a long time. The American ambassador also said Prime Minister Hariri in Washington had noted that time has come to activate these files. Jones denied he had any new information on the Awkar blast close to the American embassy adding investigations are continuing in this regard.
Cabinet will hold its first session after Israel's release of Lebanese prisoners and bodies of martyrs in exchange for the remains of an Israeli soldier who died during the failed commando operation in Ansariyeh last year. The meeting is scheduled at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon at the presidential palace in Baabda. 69 clauses are included in today's agenda of talks. The session will center on the swap operation with Israel that was carried out on the 25th and 26th of June.
Also during today's session, President Elias Al-Hrawi will reportedly seek cabinet's denunciation of the Editors' Syndicate and the Journalists' Union for criticizing his conduct following his face-slap dispute with al-Shiraa publisher Hasan Sabra.
The International Red Cross Lebanon Representative Jean Jacques Fresard today called on anyone who knows anything about the Israeli pilot Ron Arad, who was missed in Lebanon during the year 1986, whether dead or alive, to inform the Lebanese government or the International Red Cross Committee. He added if the ICRC is requested to intervene, the committee is ready to play the role of a mediator between the concerned parties in any swap operation in the future. He added this might be the only probable hope to carry out another swap operation with Israel in exchange for the release of all other Lebanese detainees in the coming months. Fresard was speaking after talks with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz during a farewell visit.
On the occasion of the day of Lebanese detainees which falls on July 14, a press conference was held today by the follow-up committee of Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails to discuss a number of planned activities which will extend between July 9-14. This was announced by the secretary general of the committee Mohammed Safa in the presence of a number of freed Lebanese prisoners. The conference was also attended by the head of the press syndicate Mohammed Baalbacki who praised the strong will of the detainees hoping they would all be released soon. For his part, Safa congratulated the freed prisoners on their freedom. Safa added 176 Lebanese are still detained by Israel. There are around 120 Lebanese prisoners held in the Israeli-run Khiam Detention Camp and the rest are held in jails inside Israel.
The joint parliamentary committees today continued discussing and studying the public sector pay scales draft project in the presence of Acting Minister of Finance Fouad Sanyoura. Article 11 of the draft law was discussed today which includes 19 clauses. Deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Ferzli who headed the session said that what was reached during today's session indicated that the project will be accomplished in contrast to the expectations of some officials. For his part, Sanyoura later expressed comfort at the course of discussions.
The head of the education committee in parliament deputy Bahiyya Al-Hariri today held a meeting with a delegation from the teachers' office. Hariri updated her visitors on the expected extraordinary session to be opened in parliament to tackle their demands. Hariri promised the teachers she will play a positive role during the meeting of the general parliamentary committee. She also denied discussions tackled the teachers' refusal to correct exams saying this issue was of their sole concern. Deputy Hariri also said that the draft projects related to the teachers' basic demands are being given enough attention during the meetings of the joint committees in parliament.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group met this morning at the UNIFIL's headquarters in the Southern village of Naqoura. The international panel comprising delegates from France, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and the US is looking into complaints filed by Lebanon and Israel over violation of the understanding. The Lebanese complaint was filed over damage caused by Israeli shelling of the villages of Al-Sawwanah and Qabreekha. Israel's complaint claims that resistance members have launched attacks last week from civilian areas in the villages of Qabreekha and Majdel Selem in the direction of Israeli outposts in Tallousa, Masharoun and Houla. The truce bans attacks to and from civilian areas.
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