Lebanese legislators meeting in Saudi Arabia said Thursday they agreed on an amended charter for national reconciliation that gives more power to Moslems and sets a timetable for a limited Syrian troop withdrawal.
The Moslem and Christian legislators, who have been locked in talks for nearly two weeks at the Saudi mountain resort of Taif, said the agreement came after a meeting of the drafting committee that lasted until dawn Thursday.A plenary session of the 63 Lebanese Christian and Moslem lawmakers was expected to convene later to approve the package, which will be voted on point-by-point by the assembly.
The size of the Lebanese parliament would be expanded from its 99 seats to 108 seats and be equally divided among Christian and Moslems.
Saudi government officials said the agreement, aimed at ending a 14-year-old civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Lebanon, would pave the way for the election of a Lebanese president.
Conference sources said the lawmakers had agreed on a package of constitutional and political reforms and had accepted an Arab timetable for a limited Syrian troop withdrawal.
Christian strongman Gen. Michel Aoun, who began a "war of liberation" six months ago to drive 35,000 Syrian troops out of Lebanon, had insisted that he would not go along with political reforms and elections under Syrian occupation.
The Syrian pullout was expected to allow implementation of the next step on the reconciliation document proposed by Arab League mediators, namely the convening of the Lebanese parliament in Beirut and the election of a new president. That post has been vacant since Sept. 23, 1987, when the term of President Amin Gemayel expired without election of a successor.
Thursday's agreement was reached after talks between the Lebanese deputies and Arab foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria, who form the Arab League's tripartite committee on Lebanon.
The foreign ministers met separately with Moslem and Christian deputies in efforts to narrow differences over the powers of the president and Cabinet and the way future Lebanese government should be formed.
One pro-Syrian Moslem official in Beirut said the Taif talks - which brought Lebanese deputies together outside Beirut for the first time since Lebanon's independence from France in 1946 - would not "fundamentally resolve the crisis" but would restore an interim peace.