clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

SYRIANS GET ARABS TO DROP EXIT DEMAND

A summit of Arab leaders Friday dropped a demand that Syria withdraw its troops from Beirut after encountering fierce opposition from the Syrians, conference officials said.

Instead, the conference called for a revision of Lebanon's Constitution and left as a "gentleman's agreement" the withdrawal of Syrian soldiers from the capital, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.The revised constitution would involve political reforms that could be considered the basis for national reconciliation in Lebanon, split by 14 years of civil war.

Lebanese Moslems, now a majority in the country, claim the constitution reserves too much power for Christians, who were dominant when Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943.

The withdrawal provision had been written into a resolution adopted early Friday, but it was deleted when leaders of the 22-member Arab League met to draft the final communique from their four-day summit.

Syria's President Hafez Assad argued bitterly over the Lebanon issue with President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Iraq is the main backer of the Christian forces and wanted a full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

Aziz told reporters the resolution "fell short of what must be done on this important issue. If it works, we shall be pleased, but if it doesn't, we shall convene again here and deal with the whole matter more satisfactorily and get a full mandate to take all the necessary measures."

Syria has 40,000 troops in Lebanon under an Arab League peacekeeping mandate, and they have joined forces with Moslem militias fighting the mainly Christian troops of Army Gen. Michel Aoun.

The summit entered its final hours amid reports Syria had reinforced its troops in Lebanon.