Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, who is currently on a vacation with his family in Sardinia, is expected back in Beirut Wednesday night. He will head on Thursday cabinet's session which will be held in the grand Saray.
Prime Minister Hariri is expected to visit Damascus before his return to Beirut. He is scheduled to hold talks with top Syrian officials on issues of interest to both countries. The premier and his Syrian counterpart Mahmud Al-Zoghbi are to head an agricultural meeting which will be attended by the agriculture ministers in both countries.
Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam reportedly stressed that his country does not intervene in the internal disagreements of Lebanon. He was quoted by the head of the foreign affairs committee in parliament, Deputy Ali Al-Khalil who visited Khaddam yesterday in Damascus. Khaddam reportedly added Syria stands at the same distance from all Lebanese officials. He also said Syria supports consensus in the Lebanese leadership as well as national consensus in the country.
The Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam as telling his visitors Syria supports every Lebanese leader who serves his country on the one hand and safeguards the joint Syrian-Lebanese interests on the other. On the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon, Khaddam was quoted as saying this is a very sensitive and important topic adding the Lebanese President should be accepted by all the Lebanese. He should also be a good leader who believes in national consensus, Khaddam reportedly added.
Israel today broke into the villages of Bint Jbeil, Houla and Markaba forcing residents there to get out of their homes and took a number of Lebanese civilians for questioning. Sources in the area said Israeli forces also detained five Israeli allied militiamen who were trying to flee through the Naqoura harbor and six others who were also trying to escape through Wadi Shakra in the central zone.
Meanwhile, Lebanese resistance men last night fought a battle with Israeli allied militiamen in the area of Hasbayya inside the zone Israel occupies in the South. Many casualties were reported among the allied militiamen. It was also reported that one resistance man was killed and another detained.
Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej continues his official visit to Australia. He recently held talks with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Kim Fisher in the presence of the consul of Lebanon in Australia, Choucri Abboud. Discussions centered on bilateral ties between Lebanon and Australia and on the current stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process.
Fisher later reiterated Australia's support for Lebanon stressing the importance of implementing UN Resolution 425 which calls for Israel's unconditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. The Australian top official also called for reactivating bilateral ties and expanding cultural and trade cooperation between the two countries.
At the presidential palace in Baabda, President Elias Al-Hrawi today received an Australian delegation headed by Australian mayor Anthony Helou who is of Lebanese origin. The meeting was attended by the Australian ambassador to Lebanon. Talks focused on bilateral ties between the two countries. Hrawi later met the third vice governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, Marwan Nsouli who was sworn in at Baabda today. The president also held talks with the newly elected municipal council of Reyak. Meanwhile, the new ambassador of Chile is expected to submit his credentials to the president soon.
Industry Minister Nadim Salem today held talks with the director general of the National Fund for Social Security on some issues recently raised by the committee of mill owners. The demands mainly center on decreasing custom duties on exported wheat.
Meanwhile, a meeting was held at the Labor Ministry attended by ministry officials and advisors and members in the union of bakery owners. The meeting discussed possible ways to resolve the conflict between the bakery owners and the National Fund for Social Security. The director general of the ministry hoped the syndicate of bakery owners would suspend a strike planned for August 19 in a bid to reach final solutions to their problems with the fund.
Hundreds of Lebanese expatriates last night arrived at Beirut's International Airport fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Around 350 Lebanese flew from Kinshasa on Saturday night on a Nigerian plane that was rented by members of the Lebanese community in Congo where rebels are fighting against the government. The evacuees were mainly women and children who left the rest of their families there in the troubled country.
Many of them had to leave everything behind. An Immigrants' Ministry official reported at least 800 Lebanese were still in Congo awaiting evacuation.
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