BEIRUT — Nearly 70,000 young Christian followers of Gen. Michel Aoun today burned tires and demonstrated in Lebanon's Christian enclave against Parliament's peace plan that shifts political power to the Muslim majority.
However, the right-wing Falange Party, the main Christian political organization in Lebanon, declared support for the peace plan worked out by Lebanese legislators during three weeks of discussions in Taif, Saudi Arabia.
The Lebanese forces, the main Christian militia, did not reject the plan aimed at ending 14 years of civil war, saying it had positive points.
Aoun had ordered his 20,000 troops on alert after he rejected the peace plan because it does not include a clear timetable for the withdrawal of Syria's 40,000 troops from Lebanon.
Salim Hoss, head of the rival Muslim government, also must approve the plan. He made no immediate comment, but senior aides said he supports the Taif accords.
Smoke billowed from the burning tires as schools, banks, government offices and other businesses closed, abiding by a strike call by Aoun's Christian cabinet.
About 70,000 youths, mainly students, demonstrated in Christian east Beirut.
"We sacrifice our blood for the general!" the demonstrators chanted as many of them waved huge posters of the 54-year-old Maronite Catholic soldier.
"Yes, yes, to the general. No, no, to Taif!" the demonstrators said as they headed to Aoun's headquarters at the bomb-ravaged presidential palace in suburban Baabda, east of Beirut.
Addressing the demonstrators, Aoun said the accord's wording of a Syrian withdrawal "is very vague, from now until eternity."
Muslims have argued that the Syrian presence was their only guarantee that political reforms would occur.
"We don't want to give away our beloved land," Aoun said in his 15-minute address. He has said the Lebanese people should vote on the accord and offered to step down if they support the parliamentary plan.
The Falange Party, in a statement published by the daily paper As-Safir and other newspapers, called for a "unified Christian stand to pursue implementation of the Taif plan."
Falangist leader George Saadeh, who also heads the Lebanese Front alliance of right-wing Christian forces, was one of the legislators who worked out the peace plan.
The Lebanese forces said it was holding contacts with Aoun and other Christian leaders.