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Assad Repeats Support for Gemayel in Militia Revolt : Lebanese Leader Goes to Damascus to Discuss Pro-Israeli Mutineers

March 24, 1985|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Lebanese President Amin Gemayel on Saturday traveled to Damascus, where Syrian President Hafez Assad renewed his pledge to help put down a pro-Israeli revolt among Gemayel's fellow Christians, an official Syrian spokesman reported.

The Syrian promise came after almost five hours of meetings between the two presidents. Gemayel and Assad met privately, then were joined by Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, Syria's expert on Lebanon, and Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh.

Assad's spokesman, Jibran Kourieh, said Assad "renewed Syria's pledge to stand firmly supporting the Lebanese legitimacy, especially in efforts to get the Israeli invaders out, and to safeguard Lebanon's unity and integrity."

Kourieh said Assad and Gemayel discussed the "rebellion" in Lebanon, apparently referring to the revolt in the Christian Lebanese Forces militia against Gemayel's pro-Syrian policies.

'The Arab Option'

Before returning to Lebanon on Saturday evening, Gemayel said his government "is committed to the Arab option, reconciliation and liberation of Lebanese occupied lands," according to a Syrian government spokesman.

The state-run Damascus radio said Syria "does not support any Lebanese faction against the other, but rather supports all in their struggle to defend their country and preserve independence. . . . Any faction that deviates from this course and gets involved with Israel will find itself in a confrontation with Syria."

Samir Geagea, leader of the mutiny, has close ties with Israel. In the previous 12 days, men under his command have taken control of most of the Christian areas of Lebanon and have demanded a greater say in government policies.

For four days last week, the Lebanese army fought Lebanese Forces militiamen. A cease-fire was arranged Thursday after a mainly Christian unit of the army was moved into a buffer zone.

Syrian Troops Move Up

Syria has moved troops and armor to the fringes of the area controlled by the Geagea forces, but there have been no confrontations.

Gemayel was forced to fly to Damascus aboard a Middle East Airlines plane because rebel militiamen seized the airstrip north of Beirut where his presidential jet is normally kept, Lebanese officials said.

The official Beirut radio and the Voice of the Nation, a Sunni Muslim station, said Saturday that officials of the Geagea rebellion met in southern Lebanon with Ariel Sharon, an Israeli Cabinet member who, as defense minister in 1982, planned Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

Israel radio said Friday that Sharon visited Israeli army camps in Lebanon, but the broadcast did not mention a meeting with the Lebanese Christians, who initially supported the invasion.

In another development, Shia Muslim leader Nabih Berri blamed "Israeli agents" for the recent spate of kidnapings of foreigners in West Beirut.

Denies Muslims Involved

Berri, who is a Lebanese Cabinet minister and also leader of Amal, the largest Shia militia, told a news conference in Beirut that no Muslims were responsible for the disappearance of six Westerners, one of them an American, in the largely Muslim western sector of the capital since March 14.

Those missing are Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, two Britons and three French Embassy personnel.

"In my opinion, it is a plot with the Israelis to withdraw all the establishments or the embassies from West Beirut," Berri said. "It is a big plot, and today I will open that fight against those people who pretend they are from Islam; and, in my opinion, they are Israeli agents."

Anonymous telephone callers saying they represented the mysterious Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War) group have claimed responsibility for abducting all six.

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