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Christians Accuse New U.S. Ambassador Of Interference

October 15, 1988

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ U.S. Ambassador John McCarthy has been meeting regularly with members of the rival Moslem and Christian governments, but he denied charges that he is interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

Since his Sept. 24 appointment, McCarthy has been meeting almost daily with leaders of the feuding factions to settle a crisis that has left the country without a president.

Parliament failed to agree on a successor to President Amin Gemayel’s before his six-year term expired Sept. 22. Since then, rival Christian and Moslem cabinets claim they govern Lebanon.

Some Christian leaders have accused McCarthy of interfering.

″My government is trying to make a positive contribution in what must be the most complex and confused period of time in the history of Lebanon,″ McCarthy responded Friday.

″I regret very much if I have offended any one. That was never my intention,″ he said.

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Farouk Abil-Lamaa, a Maronite Catholic, was quoted by several Beirut newspapers Friday as saying he considered McCarthy as only an ″American envoy and not an accredited ambassador.″

The independent daily An-Nahar, the conservative Al-Anwar and the leftist As-Safir all said that Abil-Lamaa, a Christian, apparently was angered at McCarthy’s refusal to present his credentials to the Christian government.

The Foreign Ministry is located in Christian east Beirut and is controlled by the Christian caretaker cabinet of army commander Gen. Michel Aoun.

The Aoun government is locked in a struggle for legitimacy with the predominantly Moslem cabinet, based in west Beirut, which is headed by Syrian- backed Acting Prime Minister Salim Hoss.

Aoun’s appointment Sept. 22 - in the last minutes of Gemayel’s term - caused a political crisis threatening to formalize the unofficial Christian- Moslem partition created by the outbreak of civil war in 1975.

McCarthy, who succeeded John Kelly, has been pressing for a speedy election of a new president to defuse the new crisis.

McCarthy has said he will present his credentials only to the new president, indicating Washington’s neutrality.

Danny Chamoun, head of the National Liberal Party, also criticized McCarthy after meeting with Abil-Lamaa Friday.

He complained that MacCarthy had no right to visit the governor of the central bank, Edmond Naim, at the bank in Moslem west Beirut on Thursday.

That meeting prompted local speculation that the United States might be urging Naim, a Maronite Catholic, to run for president.

Naim has pledged to keep the central bank neutral in the current conflict between the two rival governments.

Chamoun, a presidential aspirant and political opponent of Naim, called the visit ″overt intervention in Lebanon’s domestic affairs.″

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