BEIRUT — A militia "strike force" moved into the streets of West Beirut on Friday in a new bid to end violence in the mostly Muslim sector, and kidnapers released two U.N. employees after three days in captivity.
As the peace initiative began, rival Christian and Muslim forces fought sporadically on three battlefronts. At least one person was killed in clashes along the Green Line dividing the Muslim west from the mainly Christian east.
Lebanese newspapers Friday said a high-level Vatican delegation will arrive next week to seek an agreement between President Amin Gemayel, a Christian, and Syrian President Hafez Assad. There was no immediate Vatican confirmation.
The reports said Cardinal Achille Silvestrini would lead the delegation to Beirut next week, then go to Damascus.
Appeal to Pope
Gemayel asked Pope John Paul II last week to help improve relations with Syria, the main foreign power broker in Lebanon, which broke with Gemayel in January after he refused to implement a Damascus-sponsored militia peace agreement designed to end Lebanon's 11-year civil strife.
The new 500-man "strike force" began patrolling the streets of West Beirut, backing up police and army units, under an accord reached among Muslim militias Thursday in an attempt to improve security in the sector.
A smaller strike force deployed unsuccessfully in November was recruited only from the Shia Muslim militia Amal and the sometimes-allied Druze Progressive Socialist Party, but the new force was drawn from the leftist parties such as the Communists, the Syrian National Socialists and the Lebanese Baathists.
There were also reports that gunmen from Hezbollah, or Party of God, a pro-Iranian Shia fundamentalist movement, were on the strike force.
Despite the broader scope, many Lebanese were skeptical the plan would work.
"They will need an 'A-Team' themselves to control them," said one civil servant, referring to the NBC-TV television show about a paramilitary force.
Also Friday, two Palestinian employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, were released by Christian Lebanese Forces militiamen at a Lebanese Forces checkpoint between the capital and the northern port of Tripoli.
The agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees, did not say who abducted Abdul Ghani Khalil and Abdallah Kayyal on Tuesday. The pair's Lebanese driver, Edmond China, was released Thursday night.