Lebanese media today reported Israel is testing new weapons on civilian Southerners. Low-flying guided missiles fired by helicopter are being tested in South Lebanon before being placed on the international arms market. The Israeli "mini-cruise-missiles" have since May killed one civilian, wounded another, and injured three resistance men. The Daily Star Newspaper today reported a striking editorial saying: "Perhaps we should not be overly surprised at the revelation that the Israelis are using Lebanese as human Guinea pigs to test a new and still-secret 'mini cruise missile' in the South. Yet the Israeli assumption that Lebanese lives are so valueless they can be used as cheap targets to perfect their latest weapons is still a demonstration of the Jewish State's appalling cynicism."
Israeli shelling this morning continued on South Lebanon targeting the villages of Zibkeen and Wadi Jib Swaid. Mock air raids were also carried out over the area. Late last night, Israel heavily bombarded the towns of Yater, Botom, Majdel Zoun and Mansouri. No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Resistance in the South today announced its members carried out attacks on the Israeli outposts of Sojod and Bir Kallab. A statement by the resistance said considerable damage was inflicted upon these positions.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group found that the death of civilian girl Salam Iskandar is tragic but accidental. This came in a statement issued by the panel after its meeting yesterday at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The truce was looking into a complaint filed by Israel over the death of Nabil Iskandar, an Israeli allied militiaman, and Salam, his sister. They were killed in a bomb explosion last Friday while their car was passing on the Annan-Jezzine road. The final statement of the group, which comprises delegates from France, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the US, said the militiaman was the target and not his civilian sister. The attack was described as an "unintentional" violation of the April 1996 truce agreement.
The head of the United Nations General Assembly, Hennadiy Udovenko, who is currently on an official visit to Lebanon, today visited the headquarters of the UN Interim Forces in Naqoura. He was received by UNIFIL's commander, General Jeremy Konrote and a number of officers there. The UN official praised the role of UNIFIL in South Lebanon. Udovinko later inspected the site of the Qana massacre.
Udovenko, who arrived in Beirut last Monday for a three-day official visit, yesterday held talks with Lebanon's three top leaders. He also met Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz and later held a press conference at the ESCWA headquarters in downtown Beirut. After his different meetings, Odovinko voiced support for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425 without conditions.
Cabinet will meet today at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. The public sector pay scales draft law is expected to top the agenda of talks following its ratification by the joint parliamentary committees yesterday.
Ministers will discuss the draft project recently proposed by a ministerial committee meeting headed by the premier suggesting new ways to deal with the project. Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura will be charged of explaining this project to the ministers. The situation of contract workers at the Information Ministry will also be tackled. Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa is expected to present cabinet with a detailed report in this regard.
House Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday called on President Elias Al-Hrawi to issue a decree to open the extraordinary session of parliament during today's cabinet session. But Berri warned even if a decree is not issued, there were constitutional "alternatives" for convening the session, which could be opened by a parliamentary petition. It seems the dispute between the government and the parliament over finding funds for the salary scales bill is not over yet and the war of words continue between Berri and Hariri.
Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura today stressed the subject of opening an extraordinary parliamentary session is to be decided upon by President Elias Al-Hrawi and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. He was speaking to reporters after talks with the premier this morning at the governmental palace. Sanyoura added both the government and the parliament are concerned with finding possible resources to fund the public sector salary scales and ranks project. He continued this project is aimed at giving fair salaries and pensions to all workers especially those of the public sector and the retired. But the Acting Minister of Finance reiterated any spending needs financial resources adding this is a principal issue agreed upon by all.
Kuwait's Information Minister is expected in Beirut this evening ahead of a high-ranking Kuwaiti media delegation. During his four-day official visit to the country, the Kuwaiti minister is expected to hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart Bassem Al-Sabaa. Discussions aim at boosting media cooperation between the two countries. The Kuwaiti Information Minister is expected to meet Lebanon's three top leaders. The delegation will also visit the editors and press syndicates and tour the headquarters of Solidere, the company in charge of reconstruction work in downtown Beirut.
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