AMMAN, Jordan — Lebanese army troops deployed on the coastal highway south of Beirut on Wednesday in the second phase of a Syrian-backed security plan for the strife-torn country.
Reports from Beirut said about 600 soldiers from the Lebanese army's 12th Brigade, a predominantly Sunni Muslim detachment, along with Syrian army officers, took up positions along the coastal highway running from Beirut to the southern port of Sidon.
Positions along the 25-mile stretch of road were handed over by troops belonging to Walid Jumblatt's Druze militia, the Progressive Socialist Party, who withdrew peacefully into the Shouf Mountains above Beirut.
The troop deployment was the second phase of a security plan that began 10 days ago with the arrival of about 7,000 Syrian troops in West Beirut following heavy fighting between the Druze and the Shia Muslim militia Amal.
Drive to Halt Anarchy
After initial opposition from the Muslim fundamentalist group Hezbollah, which was dealt with forcefully, the Syrians have not met any serious resistance in Beirut.
The deployment along the coastal highway was designed to keep militiamen from interfering with traffic along the road. The Syrians also have closed militia offices in West Beirut as part of the drive to halt the anarchy in the city.
The military moves coincided with efforts to reach a political solution to Lebanon's 12 years of factional fighting stemming from the 1975-76 civil war. President Amin Gemayel, who is Christian, announced that he is sending a team of advisers to Damascus to consult with Syrian leaders about a package of proposed political reforms.
Muslim leaders of Lebanon's sharply divided government, led by Premier Rashid Karami, agreed on the proposals Sunday, but so far Gemayel has neither approved nor rejected them.
Sweeping Political Reforms
According to newspaper reports, the sweeping political reforms are designed to give the Muslims increased power in the government, reflecting their greater numbers.
An earlier reform proposal, which was agreed on in December, 1985, was later rejected by Gemayel and Christian militia groups on the grounds that too much was conceded to the Muslims.
The current package of reforms reportedly strips the Christian president of the power to name a premier and veto Cabinet decisions and also extends the term of office for the Speaker of Parliament. By tradition, Lebanon's premier is a Sunni Muslim and its Speaker a Shia Muslim.