News from Beirut July 2 1998 ...Search

Tension escalates in South Lebanon

Sources in South Lebanon today reported at least four casualties were recorded among members of the Israeli army and its allied militia in the South during a series of operations carried out by the Lebanese Resistance against the Israeli outposts in Dhayra, Tayr Harfa, Blat, Baraasheet, Rshaf, Hmayyed and Beit Yahoon. An attack was also launched against the Israeli Haddatha outpost. Hizbullah said its members broke in the outpost and lifted the party's flags for a certain period of time after the operation. They also took some machinery from the position. The resistance later today announced it launched around 18 attacks on Israeli outposts situated in the Western and Central Sectors of the zone Israel occupies in the South.

The resistance attacks were followed by fierce Israeli shelling on a number of villages including Beit Yahoon, Barasheet, Haddatha and Tibnin. Security sources in Tibnin reported around 150 shells caused fires in olive trees and crops. A Lebanese civilian Abdel Menem Swaydan died of heart attack during Israeli shelling of the village of Yater. Sources also reported the death of one resistance man during the Israeli attacks.

April truce group concludes meeting today

In another development, the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group this morning ended a meeting it started yesterday at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The meeting looked into two complaints, one Lebanese and the other Israeli. A statement was issued saying damage was caused in a house in Qabreekha and in three other houses in Al-Sawwaneh due to Israeli shelling of the two villages. It also said the Israeli shelling contradicts with the April understanding. The statement added the Lebanese side paid considerable efforts in making sure that resistance attacks are not being launched from civilian areas in the South. The panel concluded its statement by calling on both sides to avoid civilians and civilian areas when fighting in the South.

Press complaint on "presidential slap" kept out of cabinet last night

The famous slap President Elias Al-Hrawi gave to al-Shiraa publisher Hasan Sabra was kept out of cabinet's session last night in Baabda. The session was headed by President and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and the ministers. Information Minister Bassem Al-Saba afterwards told reporters at the palace the matter was not discussed at the meeting.

Instead the session was described as "the calmest and best in 31 years." Baabda sources said the session was preceded by a meeting between Hariri and Hrawi during which it was reported Hariri persuaded the president to drop his demand for cabinet's denunciation of the Editors' and Press Syndicates' criticism of Hrawi's conduct towards Sabra. But a significant issue was decided last night in cabinet that is the approval of an offer by the Canadian government to restructure Lebanon's postal system. The project is expected to be accomplished within a period of three years. The government also approved an agreement to encourage investment between Lebanon and Greece and a plan to boost air links with the UAE. Other issues on the agenda of talks yesterday such as the extension of the terms of ambassadors, senior foreign ministry officials and the central bank's deputy governors were not resolved.

Hariri honors Fresard on behalf of Hrawi

Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today honored the International Red Cross Lebanon Representative Jean Jacques Fresard during a ceremony held at the government palace. Hariri honored Fresard on behalf of President Elias Al-Hrawi for all his efforts and especially his latest mediation in the swap operation that was carried out between Lebanon and Israel. For his part, Fresard thanked the president for honoring him. He also said he was happy to work with the premier during the period of the swap negotiations.

He noted Hariri dealt with these tough negotiations with great intelligence and prudence.

Armenian-Lebanese ties discussed at government palace today

The Lebanese premier held talks this morning with a delegation of the ministerial Armenian-Lebanese committee who visited him in the presence of the Minister of Rural and Municipal Affairs Hagop Demerdjian. The head of the Armenian delegation later traced a development in the Armenian-Lebanese ties. He also said he delivered a message from the Armenian Prime Minister to Hariri. The Armenian Premier is expected in Lebanon next September in a visit aimed at holding discussions with top Lebanese officials on possible ways to boost bilateral relations between the two countries.

Joint committees ratified all but two clauses of the public scales project

After two weeks of discussions, joint parliamentary committees today ratified the public sector pay scales draft law with the exception of two clauses in the project. The two clauses, 4 and 14, dealing with retirement pensions, retroactive scales, and ways to fund these two clauses will be studied during a special session next week. Deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Ferzli said the next discussions will center on salary scales of judges and military personnel.

Sanyoura announces the opening of an account for municipalities at the central bank

Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura today said the Finance Ministry has recently opened an account for all Lebanese municipalities at the central bank. He added these municipalities can contact the Minister of Rural and Municipal Affairs Hagop Demerdjian to withdraw funds allocated for them after clarifying the projects the money will be spent on. The minister's signature is required for any municipality project.

Jones leaves Lebanon before Fall

The American Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones today held talks at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry in a farewell visit. Jones announced after talks with Minister Faris Boueiz and the ministry's director general Zafer Al-Hasan, he will be replaced with the new ambassador David Saterfield at the beginning of the Fall season. The American ambassador expected a continuous development in the Middle East Peace Process especially on the Syrian-Lebanese tracks.

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