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Compromise Saves Lebanon Government

March 23, 1990

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A compromise has been worked out to avert the collapse of the 5-month-old mixed Cabinet of Moslems and Christians over an attempt to arrest the Central Bank governor, Prime Minister Salim Hoss said Thursday.

His statement came after President Elias Hrawi’s office said Interior Minister Elias Khazen offered his letter of resignation late Wednesday.

″The president decided to keep the letter of resignation,″ Hrawi’s office said, without specifying if Khazen would remain in the post.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president’s neither accepting or rejecting the resignation was ″a face-saving exit″ for both Khazen and Hoss.

″Any other decision would have toppled the government. Had Khazen’s resignation been accepted, several ministers would have resigned in solidarity with him. Had it been rejected, Hoss would have resigned,″ he explained.

Hoss demanded the resignation after Khazen sent police to arrest bank governor Edmond Naim on March 15.

Central Bank guards foiled the attempt, though a bank administrator suffered a minor wound in the brief shootout.

Hours after the compromise was worked out Wednesday, the Central Bank announced it has approved the payment of $1.5 million to the London-based company, Thomas de la Rue, for printing 1 million Lebanese passports.

The Central Bank’s original refusal to finance the deal on the ground it received an offer from a Swedish company to do the job at half the price prompted Khazen’s attempt to arrest Naim. The fate of the Swedish deal was not disclosed.

Also Thursday, Hoss instructed the foreign, interior and defense ministries to check out thoroughly reports about Israeli settlement activities in south Lebanon.

Salah Staitieh, chief of the Foreign Ministry’s political department, said ″a diplomatic effort will be launched if it was confirmed that the enemy’s troops were building roads or annexing Lebanese territory.″

Israeli troops and allied militiamen control a 6-to-10-mile-deep strip of territory in south Lebanon.

Christian militia chieftain Samir Geagea on Thursday meanwhile repeated a cautious welcome for an Arab League-brokered peace plan to end Lebanon’s civil war.

Geagea’s rival, Gen. Michel Aoun, has rejected the accord along with Hrawi’s election as president Nov. 24. Almost 800 people have died in fighting between Aoun’s soldiers and Geagea’s militiamen since Jan. 30.

Hrawi, Geagea and Aoun are Maronites, the Catholic community that has dominated Lebanon since independence from France in 1943.

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