Muslims Draft Reforms, Hope to Revive Lebanon Peace Talks

Associated Press

Muslim leaders have agreed on political reforms they hope will revive negotiations with Christians on ending Lebanon's 12-year-old civil war, Prime Minister Rashid Karami said Monday.

Karami, a Sunni Muslim, did not describe the reforms, and there was no immediate response from President Amin Gemayel or other Christian leaders.

An Nahar, an independent Beirut newspaper, said that decisions made in two days of talks in Damascus, Syria, involved three major amendments to the Lebanese Constitution to give Muslims more power.

Neighboring Syria is the main power broker here and keeps 25,000 soldiers in the eastern and northern parts of the country. It sent about 7,000 soldiers into Beirut on Feb. 22 to end a weeklong factional war for control of mostly Muslim western sector of the capital.

'Course of Salvation'

Karami said in a radio broadcast that Syria would present the reforms to Gemayel's emissaries in Damascus.

"The ball is now in the president's court," he said. "He will have to make up his mind in order to stop the nation's bloodletting and set it on the course of salvation."

Gemayel, a Maronite Catholic, scuttled a Syrian-brokered agreement to end Lebanon's civil war last year. The main Christian and Muslim militia chiefs signed it, but Gemayel said that he was not consulted and that the accord gave too many concessions to Muslims.

A spokesman at the presidential palace said Monday that Gemayel had not been informed officially of the Muslims' current proposal. The spokesman added that Gemayel's representatives will go to Damascus for discussions this week.

Summit Sought

Abdul-Halim Khaddam, Syria's vice president, met in Damascus with Hani Salam, a Gemayel envoy trying to arrange a summit between the Lebanese president and President Hafez Assad of Syria. No details were released.

According to An Nahar, proposed reforms would strip Christians of some of the privileges they have had since Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943.

Under one proposal, Parliament would elect the prime minister, who always is a Sunni Muslim. The prime minister now is chosen by the president, who always is a Christian.

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