PARIS (Sep. 1)
Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said today that he will not attend the “reconciliation conference” convened by President Am in Gemayel to pave the way for a peaceful takeover by the state of the Shouf mountains after Israel’s withdrawal.
Jumblatt, speaking on the French radio from Damascus, ruled out any negotiations between his forces and Gemayel whom he accused of preparing “a new Sabra and Shatila massacre.”
Jumblatt charged Gemayel with having used the army in order to strengthen the influence of the Christian Phalangists. He said “Gemayel has turned the national army (state-controlled) into just another, better armed, Christian militia.”
Observers in Paris believe that Jumblatt’s refusal to attend the conference, which Gemayel hoped to convene this weekend, spells its doom as other Lebanese opposition leaders, such as former President Suleiman Franjieh and former Premier Rashid Karami, will probably follow suit. The Shiite Amal leader, Nabih Berri, known for his close contacts with the Druze forces controlled by Jumblatt, will probably also boycott the meeting.
FRENCH SEND AIRCRAFT CARRIER
Meanwhile, reports from the Shouf area say the Lebanese army victory in regaining control in Beirut has served to stiffen Druze determination to resist the area’s takeover after the Israel Defense Force withdraws.
The French expect fighting to intensify in the Shouf area and today ordered one of their main units, the aircraft carrier Foch to Lebanon where it will be stationed off Beirut, joining up with the U.S. carrier Eisenhower and several French cruisers.
President Francois Mitterrand also dispatched today one of his closest advisors, Francois deGrossouvre, to Beirut to try to mediate between Gemayal and the opposition. Grossouvre attended last weekend’s tripartite talks between Jumblatt, Gemayel’s representative and U.S. special envoy Robert McFarlane.
Mitterrand told his government yesterday that France wants to avoid “getting bogged down” in a Lebanese civil war but will continue to fulfill its obligations within the multinational force. France has 2,200 men in the force, which includes the U.S., Britain and Italy. An estimated 100 Lebanese soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded in the fierce fighting in the Beirut area in the past four days.