Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri late last night returned to Beirut from a one-day visit to Damascus. The premier yesterday held talks in the Syrian capital with top officials including Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, Prime Minister Mahmud Al-Zohbi and Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Sharaa. Discussions centered on recent developments in the region and the Arab World. Internal issues and subjects of interest to both countries were also tackled yesterday.
On the eve of cabinet's session, Hariri is expected to deliver a speech during a graduation ceremony held this evening at the Makassed School in Saida. Hariri will stress some national priorities set by the government's policy. He will also tackle the problem of the war displaced and the government's concern to close this file as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning held talks with his deputy Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr at government palace. He also tackled some vocational and developmental issues with his visitors. Hariri later received a delegation from the municipality of Ghbairy headed by Hajj Mohammed Saeed Al-Khansa. He also met the president of the board of directors at MEA Mohammed Al-Hout. The premier later held a meeting with the union of craftsmen headed by Abdo Saad.
The joint parliamentary committees today continued studying and discussing a number of the remaining clauses of the public sector pay scales draft law. The session was headed by deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli and attended by Acting Finance Minister of State Fouad Sanyoura. The committees today delayed discussions on the clause related to retirement pensions until next Thursday. Al-Firzli later told reporters the finance ministry will provide the committees on Thursday with a detailed schedule continuing the number of the retired including ways of calculating their salaries and retirement pensions. Today's session is the seventh meeting of joint committees dedicated to studying and ratifying the public scales project clause by clause.
From parliament, Patriarch Agnatiuos IV Hazeem today stressed the importance of the return of the war displaced to their villages and towns without stopping at the current political stances in this regard. Hazeem was speaking to reporters after talks with House Speaker Nabih Berri. Archbishop George Khoder who accompanied Patriarch Hazeem said the number of the war displaced who returned to their villages up to now is less than a quarter. Khoder stressed the importance of solving this problem away from politics.
Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani late yesterday returned from a visit to Cairo where he took part in the 10th Conference on Islamic Affairs. Qabbani was received at Beirut's International Airport by the premier's representative Minister of Vocational and Technical Training Farouq Al-Barbir, a representative of the head of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Ali Al-Khatib and Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Adel Al-Khodari. At the airport, Qabbani told reporters the conference which was held under the banner "Islam and 20th century challenges" centered on globalization. The forum held under the patronage of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also called on participant states to boost co-existence between people belonging to different religions. It also urged Islamic states to stand by the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Jewish state.
Dar Al-Fatwa yesterday called for a celebration that will be held tonight on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed's Birthday. 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. Druze Qaemmaqam Sheikh Bahjat Ghaith will also participate in the ceremony.
Agence France Press today quoted a judicial source in Tel Aviv as saying an Israeli court had secretly taken a decision to keep around 20 Lebanese prisoners in Israel without trial. The head of the court warned against revealing any kind of information concerning his decision on the destiny of those detainees. An Israeli defense lawyer of the detainees today said he will appeal the decision regarding two of the prisoners, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Al-Deerani.
The international cease-fire monitoring group is today in session at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The group is looking into four complaints, one Lebanese and three Israeli filed over violations of the April truce. The Lebanese complaint was filed over Israel's shelling of the villages of Ayta Al-Jabal, Haddatha and Baraasheet last Thursday. The attack caused damage in a number of civilian homes in these villages.
Israel's complaints allege that a number of resistance attacks were launched from civilian areas in the South. Israel also claims resistance shells fell on the villages of Bint Jbeil and Mhaydeeb inside the occupied zone and on the Galilee area inside Israel. The truce bans attacks to and from civilian areas.
The French ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau today stressed the importance of the expected visit by Syrian President Hafez Al-Assaad to France scheduled for July 16. His two-day visit to France will be his first official visit to a Western nation in 22 years. The French ambassador added Assaad's expected visit will help boost bilateral French-Syrian ties and increase cooperation between the two countries. It will also allow both presidents to exchange views on the current situation in the Middle East in light of the deadlocked Mideast peace process. Jouanneau was speaking to reporters during an inspection tour in Tripoli's seaport. He also reiterated France's firm stance regarding the Mideast peace process.
During the last couple of days, army and civil defense teams managed to extinguish around 100 fires that blazed in different areas in the country as a result of high temperature and speedy winds. Civil defense teams today called on all citizens not to set fire in trash bins. They also called on residents to dial 125 from any telephone whenever they witness any kind of fire anywhere in the country. The fires ceased today with a slight decrease in temperature. But weather sources today predicted the temperature will increase in the coming days to reach an average of 32 degree Celsius. Humidity will also score an increase to a range of 70-85%.
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