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Syrian-Lebanese Talks Resume in ‘Positive Atmosphere’

March 6, 1987

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ Lebanese Christian envoys met with Syria’s foreign minister Friday to try to resolve a few remaining differences over a Syrian-backed peace plan for Lebanon, sources said.

″The talks are progressing in a very positive atmosphere,″ said a Lebanese source close to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity. ″But 12 years of war cannot be stopped by a single stroke - it’s not a push-button affair.″

It was the second day of meetings between the envoys and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. The Moslem opponents of Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, a Christian, endorsed the peace plan in talks in Damascus last weekend.

The Lebanese Christian team includes Elie Salem, a former foreign minister; Col. Simon Kassis, Lebanon’s military intelligence chief; and Nicolas Nasr, Gemayel’s main legal adviser.

The three are in Damascus for the eighth time since January, when efforts to reconcile Gemayel and Syrian President Hafez Assad began a year after the Lebanese president scuttled a similar Syrian-brokered peace accord.

Another source close to the talks said the discussions already have eliminated many differences.

″There are a few more sticking points which can be eliminated through more talks,″ said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sources would not speculate on how long this would take or give details of the remaining differences.

Lebanese newspapers have said the the blueprint contains three major constitutional amendments designed to give Lebanon’s Moslem community a larger share of power.

These reforms reportedly would strip the president, traditionally a Christian, of his power to veto Cabinet decisions and to designate prime ministers, traditionally a Sunni Moslem.

The amendments also would double the term of the Parliament speaker, traditionally a Shiite Moslem, to four years.

Lebanon’s Christians have dominated the Parliament, judiciary, army and civil service since the country’s independence from France in 1943, when they were considered a majority of the population.

But the Moslem community since has grown to 1.9 million, compared with an estimated 1.1 million Christians. Moslem leaders are demanding equality as a condition to end the fighting.

Syria, which maintains an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 troops in north and east Lebanon and in Beirut, is trying to mediate a settlement to the civil strife.

About 7,500 Syrian soldiers backed by tanks moved into Moslem west Beirut Feb. 22 to end fighting among rival Moslem and Communist militias.

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