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Palestinians, Amal Militia Agree to End Their Conflict

September 13, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Palestinian guerrillas and Syrian-backed Shia Muslim militiamen have agreed to end more than two years of sporadic combat, newspapers reported Saturday.

The Palestinians agreed to withdraw from positions they captured in southern Lebanon in return for peace with Shias who had tried to block the resurgence of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the daily newspaper An Nahar said.

It said the agreement was reached during a meeting Friday in the southern Lebanon city of Sidon, among senior officers from Amal, the dominant Syrian-backed Lebanese Shia faction, and Fatah, the PLO's main faction.

Enemies Brought Together

The meeting brought the two groups together for the first time since the Shias launched their crackdown in May, 1985, to halt the creation of a new PLO power base in Lebanon. The guerrillas had evacuated during the 1982 Israeli invasion.

The two largest Marxist Palestinian groups, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also were present, the newspaper said.

The camps conflict has been seen as a proxy war between the Damascus government and Arafat, its rival for control of the Palestinian cause and the 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.

Damascus approved the peace to allow its ally Amal to regroup its political and military forces, analysts said.

Bid to Free Up Amal

"Syria does not want Amal preoccupied. . . . It wants to strengthen its allies ahead of the battle for the (Lebanese) presidency next year," one political analyst said.

A statement released at the end of the meeting, published by An Nahar and other newspapers, said the Palestinian guerrillas agreed to withdraw from strategic hilltop positions they had captured last year east and southeast of Sidon.

In return, Amal would lift its siege of Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut to allow reconstruction work in the shantytowns.

The statement also said both Amal and the Palestinians would release those abducted in retaliatory kidnapings in Beirut and southern Lebanon during the 28-month feud.

No Mention of Deadline

The statement did not mention a deadline for implementing the accord, but An Nahar said the Palestinians are expected to begin their pullback into camps near Sidon on Oct. 5.

It said the Palestinians would hand over their positions east of Sidon to militiamen from the so-called Unification and Liberation Front, a loose alliance of Syrian-backed Lebanese factions including Amal and leftist groups that have good relations with the PLO.

"This pact will help the Palestinians pick up their lives and build their houses. It will solve the humanitarian problems, but the political issues will need more talks," a Palestinian official said.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said he hopes the peace pact will free pro-Syrian and leftist forces to campaign against the leaders of Beirut's Christian enclave.

"We hope the latest agreement reached in Sidon will be implemented with Syria's help . . . and all guns pointed at the army, the Falangists, Israel and its agents," Jumblatt said.

Addressing a large crowd at a rally in his mountain fiefdom southeast of Beirut, Jumblatt said, "What counts is extracting the Falangist virus."

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