Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad continues his three-day official visit to France. Assad today held a second round of talks with French President Jacques Chirac. He is also expected to meet French Premier Lionel Jospin later today. At the end of his schedule for today, the Syrian leader will visit the Arab World Institute in Paris.
Upon his arrival to the French capital yesterday, Assad and Chirac held talks that mainly centered on the Middle East Peace Process. Sources at the Elysee palace said the two leaders agreed on the necessity of reviving peace talks and saving the deadlocked peace process. France also reiterated its call for holding a new international peace conference in light of the dangerous situation in the region and the failure of recent Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Chirac and Assad also discussed issues related to Lebanon. The French president reiterated his country's support for Lebanon and its reconstruction process. Both Chirac and Assad stressed the necessity of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425 without conditions.
Assad explained Israel refuses to withdraw from South Lebanon and the Golan Heights adding Israel seeks to "kill" the peace process. The Syrian president also said the peace process has reached a dead end as a result of the Israeli government's hard-line policies and its defiance of international resolutions.
The new US ambassador to Lebanon, David Saterfield, today voiced support for the joint Syrian-French stance regarding the Middle East peace process and the necessity of its revival. The US ambassador said his country seeks to kick-start peace talks between Lebanon, Syria and Israel and to put an end to what he termed as violence in South Lebanon. Saterfield added his country believes Lebanon should regain its full sovereignty on all its areas. The newly appointed US ambassador, who replaced former ambassador Richard Jones, also said a regional comprehensive peace would help Lebanon reach this goal.
President Elias Al-Hrawi yesterday discussed a number of security concerns in Lebanon at the opening of a new X-ray center at the Sacre Coeur hospital in Hazmieh. Hrawi repeated his threat to "cut the hands off anyone who tried to disrupt the country's security". He warned the government would deal harshly with security-related issues. The president added Lebanon is a secure country and the government has its eyes wide open everywhere, warning Israeli intelligence any attempts at sabotage would not succeed and would be dealt with harshly.
Deputy Premier Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr this morning headed a meeting for the country's central security council. The meeting was held to discuss the outcome of ongoing investigations in the case of the spying network recently accused of collaborating with Israel. Some members of the ring were arrested.
Meanwhile, Military Judge Riad Taleeh today continued his investigations into the file of the spying network. He questioned two persons on their information in this regard.
At Baabda today, President Elias Al-Hrawi received a joint delegation comprising deputies in the Australian Parliament and members of the International Council for Lebanese Immigrants in Australia. After the meeting, a visiting Australian deputy told reporters at the palace discussions centered on bilateral ties and cooperation on different levels between the two countries. Hrawi called on the delegation to convey the real image of Lebanon today upon their return to their country and especially to the Australian parliament.
Omani Environment Minister Khalif Bin Mubarak Al-Alaweh today signs an agreement on environmental cooperation with his Lebanese counterpart Akram Shhayyeb. The Omani Minister, who arrived yesterday in Beirut, also met today President Elias Al-Hrawi at Baabda in the presence of his Lebanese counterpart.
In another development, Oman is to re-open its embassy in Lebanon by this autumn after being closed since the war years. This was announced yesterday by the Omani honorary consul Jihad Anis Tannir following a meeting he held with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. The Omani charge d'affaires and first secretary are expected to begin work in Lebanon next month.
The secretary general of the foreign ministry Zafer Al-Hassan today held discussions with his Indian counterpart on ways to boost economic ties between the two countries. They held a press conference following their meeting that also tackled recent developments in the Middle East. For his part, the Indian diplomat denied his country was involved in any kind of military or nuclear cooperation with Israel. He added India's policy towards the Arab world is fixed. The Indian foreign ministry official also voiced his country's support for the unconditional implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425. He added his visit to Lebanon aims at boosting bilateral ties with Lebanon especially on the economic level. For his part, Al-Hassan said he held talks with his Indian counterpart on a draft project aimed at activating scientific and technical cooperation between the two countries.
A conference on women's active participation in political life was opened today in Beirut under the patronage of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej represented Hariri in the opening. In his speech, Merhej called on the Arab and Lebanese Woman to work on achieving an active role in the political life of their countries.
Merhej considered that our Oriental upbringing and norms may lead some people to have a negative attitude towards women's participation in public affairs and political life.
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