Cabinet was scheduled to meet today at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. But the weekly session to be headed by President Elias Al-Hrawi and attended by Prime Minister Hariri and the ministers was postponed for tomorrow. This was announced by the Baabda palace information office in a statement that added cabinet's session was cancelled for today due to a minor illness of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. On the agenda of talks were issues related to recent local and regional developments.
In Baabda today, President Elias Al-Hrawi received House Speaker Nabih Berri. Discussions centered on the public sector pay scales draft law expected to top talks tomorrow during cabinet's session.
Joint parliamentary committees today continued studying the public sector pay scales draft law. Sources in parliament said the project might be finalized either today or tomorrow. The sources added the draft law will then be referred to the general committee of the house during parliament's expected extraordinary session. During their 12th session yesterday, joint parliamentary committees ratified all sticking clauses related to the salaries of military personnel. Discussions on clauses related to Lebanese University teachers were postponed for today. This was announced by Deputy
House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli who headed the session in the presence of Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura and Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej.
Two landmark agreements were reached at the governmental palace today. The accords aim at developing the sectors of telecommunication and information technology in the country. This was decided after talks between Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and the secretary general of investment and maintenance at the telecommunications and postal services ministry, Abdel Menem Youssef. Youssef later announced that starting August, phone calls to Syria can be made from any telephone in Lebanon using the code number (02) followed by the area code and phone number. Youssef added the cost of calls per minute was decreased from 900 Lebanese Liras to 500. The ministry official also announced costs of monthly international line fees for Internet companies are to be reduced by 70%.
The radio of the Israeli allied militia in South Lebanon last night reported one of its members was killed and two others wounded in a roadside-bomb attack. Their patrol was passing on the road linking Ain Majdaleen and Toumat Neeha near Jezzine. Meanwhile, heavy Israeli shelling last night targeted the area of Wadi Al-Kfour in the outskirts of Nabatieh.
Israeli warplanes today carried out air raids on Toumat Neeha firing around 6 rockets on the area located south of the eastern Bekaa valley. No casualties were reported.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group accused Israel and its allied militia in South Lebanon of violating the terms of the truce agreement signed in April, 1996. This was issued in a statement by the group following a session it held yesterday. The group looked into three Lebanese complaints over Israeli shelling of civilian areas in the villages of Haddatha and Nabatieh, the injury of a 65-year-old civilian Ali Karneeb, and damage caused to two civilian homes in Nabatieh. The Lebanese and Syrian delegates to the group presented enough evidence in this regard. The group called on Israel and its allies to take more precautious measures and to avoid inflicting damage upon civilians and civilian properties in the South.
As part of investigations in the case of the recently unveiled spying and sabotage networks, Military Prosecutor Riyad Taleeh yesterday decided to widen the scope of investigations. Judge Taleeh announced he will question on Monday the wife of the head of the disbanded Lebanese forces, Streeda Geagea. Fouad Malek, a retired general and the commander of the disbanded forces will also be questioned on the same day. Former investigations have revealed that suspects in the discovered spying network, accused of collaborating with Israel, used to pay Streeda Geagea a number of home visits.
In coordination with internal security forces, army patrols continue their efforts to spot thief gangs in the different Lebanese areas in a bid to find a final solution to this problem. Since July 11, these forces have detained members in three different thief gangs. The rings group 12 members who had been carrying out robberies in the areas of Dekwaneh, Monte Verde, Nahr Al-Kalb, Mar Youssef, Rawda, Dora, Bourj Hammoud, and Nahr Al-Maout.
They robbed citizens in their cars and on the streets. The gangs were referred to specialized judicial authorities. In this regard, the National News Agency today reported strict instructions were issued to all army patrols and other security forces that are in charge of spotting such gangs dictating they fire on those members who do not obey detention orders when discovered.
Former US ambassador to Lebanon John Kelly arrived in Beirut last night. Kelly is expected to participate in the general meeting of the board of directors at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. At Beirut's International Airport, Kelly told reporters he was very happy to see Lebanon's image improving in the American media. Kelly also praised the recent lifting of the US travel restrictions to Lebanon adding more Americans are now visiting the country. After talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi today at Baabda, Kelly praised progress achieved in the country.
He also described the current state of the Middle East peace process as difficult. The former US ambassador also met today Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz at Boustrous Palace. During his visit, Kelly is expected to hold talks with a number of top officials in the country.
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