Intense Security at Racetrack Where Cabinet to Meet
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Police and army units imposed strict security Monday around Beirut’s deserted racetrack on the eve of a reconciliation meeting by the Cabinet seeking to end Lebanon’s 11-year-old civil war.
Prime Minister Rashid Karami’s 10-member Cabinet, evenly divided between Moslems and Christians, is to meet Tuesday morning in the administration building of the racetrack. It is located in the no-man’s land between Moslem west Beirut and Christian east Beirut.
Policemen ringed the walled track and soldiers searched the shell-pocked high-rise apartment buildings overlooking the hippodrome for possible sniper hideouts.
It will be the Cabinet’s first meeting in nine months and will mark a fresh effort to work out political reforms to end the war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
There have been no Cabinet meetings this year because Christian and Moslem ministers would not take the risk of crossing into areas controlled by the other side’s militias.
Karami, a Sunni Moslem, has set a one-month deadline for the Cabinet to come up with a power-sharing formula to ensure peaceful coexistence between the warring Moslem and Christian communities.
The Cabinet talks are backed by Syria, Lebanon’s main power broker with some 25,000 soldiers in northern and eastern Lebanon under a 1976 peacekeeping mandate from the Arab League.
Meanwhile, police reported a bank robbery in west Beirut and the deaths of two Palestinians in Beirut and the southern port city of Sidon.
They said robbers armed with rifles and pistols seized the equivalent of $15,000 from the Beirut-Riyadh Bank and escaped while exchanging shots with an army patrol that tried to catch them. ″One gunman was believed wounded, but not captured,″ a policeman said. He reported no other casualties.
The Palestinian found dead in Sidon was identified as Jomaa Ayoud, a member of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah guerrilla group. Fatah is the largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Arafat.
Fatah issued a statment claiming Ayoub was killed by Shiite Moslem Amal militiamen while in their custody. Justice Minister Nabih Berri is the Amal leader.
An Amal statment acknowledged Ayoub had been captured but said he died from head injuries suffered when he fell off a stairway. It said he was being questioned about how he had infiltrated Amal positions in southern Lebanon.
The other Palestinian was identified by police as Marwan Abed. They said his body, with gunshot wounds, was found on a beach in west Beirut’s Raoucheh district.
There was fear the deaths could start another round of fighting between Palestinian guerrillas and Amal militiamen at Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and Sidon.
Police have said at least 850 people were killed and nearly 3,600 were wounded in three major series of battles at the camps since the Shiite- Palestinian hostilities erupted in May 1985.
Amal claims the PLO is using the refugee camps to re-establish the power base that Arafat lost when Israeli invaded Lebanon in 1982 and occupied much of the southern half of the country for three years.