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Syrian Observers Barred From E. Beirut

August 25, 1985|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Muslim gunners violated a day-old cease-fire by shelling Christian East Beirut on Saturday, and Christian officials refused proposals to extend the role of Syrian peace observers to their side of the divided capital.

A dozen Soviet-made Grad rockets and several artillery shells crashed into the eastern sector and a Christian coastal area north of Beirut. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

More than a dozen civilians were reported kidnaped by Muslim and Christian gunmen as they attempted to cross the so-called Green Line dividing Muslim West Beirut from the eastern sector.

Some Reported Missing

Police said all the victims, both pedestrians and people in cars, were released hours later in a swap. But the Christian Voice of Lebanon radio said a number of Christians were still missing.

The kidnapings, a regular occurrence when sectarian passions run high, prompted the army to close the last gateway still open across the Green Line.

A Syrian-backed cease-fire in the early hours Friday ended two weeks of violence around Beirut that left more than 300 people dead, more than 1,000 wounded and 2,500 homes destroyed.

Despite the Saturday shelling, the shaky cease-fire has generally held since it went into effect.

A security committee representing the main Christian and Muslim factions and the army met for the third day Saturday. But it failed to come up with a workable plan to position Syrian observers on both sides of the Green Line to monitor the truce, because the Christian chieftains refused to allow the Syrians into their strongholds.

The Christians largely oppose the pro-Soviet Syrians, who mainly support the Muslims in Lebanon's 10-year-old conflict.

Meanwhile, the Voice of Lebanon reported that former President Camille Chamoun, 85, Saturday stepped down as head of the National Liberal Party, which he led for 27 years, and was replaced by his younger son, Dany.

The elder Chamoun, finance and housing minister in Lebanon's fragile "national unity" government, was quoted as saying he was stepping down for health reasons.

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