At Baabda last night, President Elias Al-Hrawi received House Speaker Nabih Berri. Their one-hour meeting mainly tackled issues related to the public sector pay scales draft law in light of the suggestion of a ministerial committee meeting headed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri earlier yesterday to discuss the subject. The two leaders exchanged views on ways to fund the project. Berri later told reporters at the palace, financing the salary scales can be ensured by implementing the articles of an economic reform plan endorsed last November. Berri added an agreement was reached between Lebanon's three top leaders to open the extraordinary parliamentary session as soon as the joint parliamentary committees finish examining and studying the bill.
Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa yesterday met twice with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at government palace to discuss the situation of contract workers at the information ministry. Sabaa later told reporters he was preparing a report on the unequal conditions of those workers suggesting ways to ensure fair pay for all. But the Information Minister also complained his ministry is crowded with unproductive political appointees who are unworthy of salary increases.
Joint Parliamentary committees today finalized discussions on the public sector salary scales project. Deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli announced the committees finished ratifying all clauses of the project involving those related to military personnel and civil workers. The committees also referred the bill to parliament's general committee, which is expected to carry out further discussions in this regard in a bid to rarify the project. The session of the joint committees was attended today by the head of the National News Agency Rafik Shlala who was invited by Firzli to explain the situation of information ministry contract workers. Shlala told the committees those workers should benefit from the pensions of the salary scales prjoect according to a suggestion by Infromation Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa. He added the suggestion will be presented to cabinet for ratification and later referred to parliament.
The head of the UN General Committee, today started his talks with top Lebanese leaders. He met this morning President Elias Al-Hrawi at the presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on the role of UN committees in Lebanon. During the meeting, the Lebanese President also briefed the UN official on Lebanon's stance regarding the implementation of UN Resolution 425, which calls for Israel's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. The meeting also tackled the role of UN Interim Forces in South Lebanon and the recent extension of their mandate.
The head of the UN General Committee earlier today held talks with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace. Their meeting centered on Lebanon's role in the Mideast Peace Process and any possible solution to the region's crisis. The Ukrainian-born UN official also tackled with Hariri the subject of bilateral relations between his country and Lebanon. He later told reporters that the presence of UN institutions in the country is a good indicator of the improvement of the Lebanese situation. He also expressed admiration at the reconstruction process going on in the country.
The UN official, who also held a meeting with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz today, is expected to hold a press conference at the ESCWA headquarters in down town Beirut later today.
The international cease-fire monitoring group is in session at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The panel is looking into an Israeli complaint which accuses the Lebanese resistance of detonating a roadside bomb on the road linking the villages of Annan and Jezzine. The attack killed an official in the Israeli allied militia and his sister last week.
Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes this morning carried out mock-air raids over areas in Nabatieh and Iqlim Al-Touffah. Israel also bombarded the outskirts of Kafra, Yater, Harees, and Wadi Ashour. Israeli shelling had intensified late last night on the outskirts of Lowaizeh, Sojod, Rayhan, and Mazraat Okmata in the Iqlim Al-Touffah Mountain Ridges.
Lebanon and the European Union today signed a financial agreement. The EU will accordingly grant donations to help finance a project on administrative rehabilitation. A number of ministries and administrative services will benefit from the accord. It was signed this morning by Administrative Reform Minister Bshara Merhej, the EU Lebanon representative Dimitris Qourqoulas and the German Ambassador to Lebanon Peter Wittig, whose country currently presides over the union.
An Austrian Delegation from the "Energy and Environment Company" today held a business meeting with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri at government palace in the presence of the trade advisor of the Austrian embassy in Lebanon and the Austrian ambassador. The delegation presented the premier with a project that aims at improving the two electricity stations in Kadeesha and Hreisheh. The project also involves the establishment of an energy plant that works on fuel oil and natural gas. Its overall cost ranges between 120 and 150 million US dollars.
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