At government palace today, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri headed a meeting for the ministerial committee charged with studying the situation of retired people in Lebanon. The committee presented a draft law aimed at ensuring the retired would get fair and reasonable pensions. Ministers Mohsen Dalloul, Bahij Tabbara, Michel Al-Murr, Bshara Merhej and Fouad Sanyoura also attended the meeting. Prime Minister Hariri said after the meeting the committee's proposal will be discussed by cabinet during its weekly session next Wednesday. He added the project aims at improving the situation of those personnel who were not only retired before the year 1991, as the joint parliamentary committee project suggests, but also after it. The premier also said the ministerial committee's project costs 170 billion LL while that presented by the joint committees costs around 50 billion.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri later today held a meeting with Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura to discuss the draft law on retired pensions reached by the ministerial committee meeting earlier this morning.
Sanyoura told reporters a project earlier suggested by the joint parliamentary committees in this regard creates more differences between the retired personnel. He added the project that was reached today by the ministerial committee meeting presents a solution to this problem in a way that maintains the budget deficit agreed upon by government. Meanwhile, joint parliamentary committees are expected to lay the final touches on the public sector pay scales project tomorrow in parliament.
Earlier today, the premier held talks over the phone with Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz wishing him fast recovery. The king was yesterday admitted to hospital to undergo medical check-up.
At the presidential palace in Baabda, President Elias Al-Hrawi held talks this morning with Deputy Ali Al-Khalil regarding the public sector pay scales draft law. After the meeting, Al-Khalil told reporters at Baabda the project should be ratified in the first half of this month.
President Hrawi also met today Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz. The president later received the head of the doctors' syndicate Ghattas Khoury.
In another development, President Hrawi telephoned a number of Saudi officials who reported King Fahd is in good heath. On Hrawi's agenda for this evening is a meeting scheduled between him and House Speaker Nabih Berri and Baabda.
Lebanon and Germany today signed an agreement of cooperation between the agriculture ministries of both countries. After the signing, Agriculture Minister Shawki Fakhoury said the accord will provide Lebanon with enough support to boost its agricultural sector and enhance agricultural production. For his part, the director general of the German Agriculture Ministry said the agreement would strengthen the bilateral exchange of information and expertise in this regard. The German Ambassador to Lebanon, Peter Wittig also reiterated his country's support to Lebanon adding Germany considers Lebanon as the most important country in the region regarding its economy.
The president of the United Nations General Committee today arrived in Beirut on an official visit. The Ukrainian-born UN official is expected to hold talks with President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. He will also meet Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz who had officially invited him to visit the country. His discussions with Lebanese officials are expected to center on the general regional situation in light of the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. Upon his arrival in Beirut, the UN official said he came to inspect "the great reconstruction process" that is going on in the country. He added Lebanon plays a very important role in any solution to the Mideast crisis. During his visit, the UN official is also expected to visit the site of the Qana Massacre and the down town area in Beirut in an inspection tour to Solidere and ESCWA.
Israel today detained two Lebanese fishermen near the port of Tyre in the South. The fishermen were Issam Al-Samra and Oussama Abbas Taghla.
Meanwhile, Israeli shells today fell on the villages of Kafra, Yater and Wadi Jezzine. No casualties were reported in the attacks which originated from Israeli outposts in the occupied zone. In retaliation, the Lebanese resistance in the South carried out attacks on an Israeli position in Mount Hmayyed overlooking the villages of Yater and Soughbeen.
In another development, Israeli President Azar Weizman yesterday said Israel must withdraw from South Lebanon. He was speaking during an inspection tour he carried out in a visit to Israeli soldiers who were injured last week in South Lebanon. But the Israeli president added it is a long way before Israel pulls out from Lebanon.
The follow-up committee for Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails today called for participation in a conference to be held by freed Lebanese detainees at noon tomorrow at the Press Syndicate. Participants will announce a project on freed prisoner rehabilitation which is to be later studied by government.
In this regard, the parliamentary justice and administration committee this morning held a meeting in parliament and decided to continue studying a draft law aimed at providing assistance to the families of martyrs, disabled, and detainees who belong to the Lebanese resistance.
For its part, the committee of human rights suggested giving priority to freed Lebanese prisoners who were detained in Israeli jails regarding job opportunities in the country's public and private sectors.
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