A conference on the plight of the 450,000 war displaced people in Lebanon held in Beiteddine over the weekend have ignited a vicious war of words between the Minister of War Displaced Walid Jumblatt and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. The two accused each other of massive waste of public funds. Jumblatt also accused the premier of concentrating on costly reconstruction projects and refusing to give importance to the issue of the displaced for political and sectarian reasons. But a statement issued yesterday by the prime minister's office said the government has done its duty adding it will no longer allow the fund for the displaced to satisfy the minister's supporters. Analysts say the government began to cut down on funds allocated to the ministry when Jumblatt started to show some opposition to the government's policy.
The conference was opened by Jumblatt and closed by the Phalange Party President George Saadeh who read the recommendations which mainly called for the ministry of the displaced to supervise the Fund for the Displaced and provide it with a continuos flow of income from the budget. The conference was attended by a number of MP's, Christian groups, religious figures, officials from different political parties and representatives of the displaced.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning headed to Damascus where he held talks and consultations with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and a number of top officials in the Syrian leadership. Discussions centered on recent developments in the region and the Arab world and a number of issues that interest both countries.
Fires today broke out in a number of mountains and forests and even between houses across different areas in the country. The fires were caused by high temperatures and dry winds. Civil Defense teams managed to extinguish a number of them such as those that blazed in Qobayyat, Darayya in Keserouan, Roumieh, and Naccache. Fires also attacked areas near Alayeh, Bhamdoun, Jounieh, and Bsharri. Civil defense sources called on all citizens to contact its different departments on the free of charge telephone number 125 whenever they see any kind of fire in any area. This will help the teams to extinguish these fires before spreading. Fires also swept yesterday across at least 75 villages in North and South Lebanon.
For a second day today, Israeli forces continued blocking the Kfar Tibnit border crossing. The border allows passage to and from the occupied zone. This follows a resistance operation carried out two days ago on the border crossing injuring two Israeli allied militiamen.
Meanwhile, caution prevails in the South following Israel's shelling this morning on the outskirts of Al-Zahrani River and the villages of Sojod, Rayhan, and Habboush. For its part, the Lebanese resistance today announced one of its units attacked the Israeli outpost of Bir Kallab scoring direct hits.
Transportation Minister Omar Miskawi today held talks with the Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Marchand on bilateral ties between the two countries. Top on the agenda of discussions was the issue of starting a direct airline between Lebanon and Canada. This follows Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's talks in Canada last year in this regard. Ambassador Marchand later told reporters his country will continue to support the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425 which calls on Israel's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. For his part, Miskawi predicted a very good future of bilateral ties between the two countries.
Celebrations were held in a number of mosques today in different areas of the country on the occasion of the birthday of Moslem Prophet Mohammed. Speakers stressed the importance of this memory in the lives of Moslems and Arabs. Dar Al-Fatwa called for a celebration that will be held tomorrow night on the occasion. Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani and the head of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine are expected to deliver speeches and hold prayers during the ceremony. Mufti Qabbani is expected back in Beirut this evening after he participated in the 10th Conference on Islamic Affairs which was held in Cairo.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir moves this afternoon to the patriarchy's summer headquarters in Al-Deeman. During his meeting today in Bkirki with a delegation of new archbishops, Sfeir stressed the importance of transmitting love and forgiveness and boosting the co-existence between the Lebanese whether those residing in Lebanon or in the Diaspora. He also called on them to work on boosting ties between immigrant Lebanese and their homeland.
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