Before concluding his visit to Lebanon, the European Mideast envoy Miguel Angel Moratinus today reiterated the necessity of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 425. Moratinus had yesterday held talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri before leaving late last night to Amman. The European envoy stressed he was still seeking to reach a peace formula aimed at kick-starting negotiations on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks with Israel.
Moratinus also said the European Union is preparing for a peace conference aimed at finding ways to push the peace process forward adding the French-Egyptian initiative includes some of the elements of this conference. He also stressed the importance of cooperation and coordination with the US in this respect. The European envoy's next stop will be is Israel and he is expected to conclude his Mideast tour with a visit to Cairo.
Israeli warplanes today heavily raided areas in the Western Bekaa Valley. The planes also carried out tens of mock-air raids over these areas. Helicopters had performed a number of overflights over some Western Bekaa villages during the early hours of the morning. Five Israeli shells fell on the outskirts of Litani River and the villages of Maydoon. Tens of shells also targeted the surroundings of Berkaat Al-Jabbour and Western Mashghara.
President Elias Al-Hrawi this morning received a delegation of the newly elected members in Tripoli's municipal council headed by the council's president Samir Shaarani. Hrawi held his weekly meetings today with deputies instead of tomorrow when he is expected to attend a commemoration ceremony for former President Adel Osseiran held at the UNESCO palace.
Also at Baabda, cabinet is expected to hold its weekly session later today. Ministers will discuss an agenda of 22 clauses.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today received the French Ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau at his residence in Kraytem. Jouanneau later told reporters Lebanese authroties are continuing their search for the body of the French researcher Michel Serrat. Serrat was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1986 and was declared dead by his kidnappers some time later. It was believed his body was buried near the airport area where the main diggings are now taking place.
The premier later met a delegation of the Association of American University Graduates headed by Mohammed Al-Mashnook who praised the step of laying the foundation stone for a new Lebanese University campus in Al-Haddath. The delegation quoted the premier as saying the economic situation in the country is gradually improving and also as expecting the budget deficit will disappear in a period of six to seven years.
Hariri also met today a delegation of the syndicate of electricity workers. The visitors discussed with the premier their different demands in the presence of Minister of Electricity and Water Resources, Elie Hobeika.
Joint Parliamentary committees held a session this morning headed by Deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli. Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej and Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura were also present at the meeting. Deputies discussed clauses related to the retroactive effect in the draft public sector pay scales project.
In the meantime, the parliamentary committee of economy studied suggestions aimed at introducing amendments to the law of trade. The session was headed by Deputy Mohammed Fneish.
Deputy Abdel Al-Latif Al-Zein presided over a meeting of the committee of media and telecommunications held to discuss issues related to the situation of mechanical telephones and cellular phones in the country.
Official contacts intensified today as more preparations are underway for the expected election of a new president for the General Labor Confederation. In this regard, Labor Minister Assaad Hardan today met former GLC leader Elias Abu-Rizk. Minister Hardan described Abu-Rizk's initiative to run for the presidency of the body as a courageous act which serves the interests of the syndicate movement in the country. A meeting for the GLC executive council previously scheduled for today was canceled due to the lack of attendance. Outgoing GLC President Ghanime Al-Zoghbi who was expected to renege on his resignation during this meeting was also absent.
The director general of the foreign ministry Zafer Al-Hassan today received the European Union's ambassador to Lebanon Dimitris Korkoulas at Boustrous Palace. Discussions centered on ways to boost economic, financial and political cooperation between Lebanon and the EU. Korkoulas denied reports that a European ministerial delegation will visit Lebanon soon. Austria now presides over the European Union.
The health ministry today issued a new health guide which includes explanations aimed at facilitating the citizens' different dealings with the ministry and its offices in all the governorates. The guide is being distributed for free to different institutions, associations, and public committees in the country. During a ceremony held today to launch the guide, Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh stressed administrative reform is necessary and possible. He added this step, which is to be followed by other similar moves, comes in the framework of improving the quality of serviced provided by the ministry.
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