LAUSANNE (Mar. 11)
Leaders of Lebanon’s eight warring factions gathered here today to open tomorrow a last chance conference to put an end to blood-letting and fighting. All the main eight leaders, including Lebanese President Amin Gemaye and opposition leaders Walid Jumblatt, a Druze, and Nabih Berri, a Shiite, said on the eve of the conference that they will do “whatever we can to try and reach a solution.” Observers say the chances for success are slim as both the opposition and the backers of Gemayel are deeply split among themselves.
Some of Gemayel’s supporters, such as former President Camille Chamoun are still bitter for his capitulation to Syrian demands in scrapping the May 17th agreement with Israel.
A spokesman for Chamoun said it will be difficult to reach an understanding with him after his recent betrayal. Chamoun and the President’s father, Pierre Gemayel, conferred here this evening and drew up a joint working paper which they will submit to the conference tomorrow afternoon when it convenes.
The opposition is equally divided and observers say that Berri and Jumblatt are split over their views of Lebanon’s future. While Jumblatt is reportedly in favor of a federation on the basis of ethnic or religious “cantons,” Berri wants to maintain the country’s unity, feeling that it belongs as such to the Arab and the Moslem world.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Abdel Khalim Khadam is due to arrive tomorrow only after meeting in Damascus today with a Soviet delegation headed by First Deputy Premier Geidar Aliyev, the highest-ranking Soviet official to visit Syria since 1980.
The official Syrian news agency said Khadam and Aliyev discussed the current international situation, the Middle East and Soviet-Syrian relations. In a speech at a banquet yesterday in Damascus, Aliyev said the USSR supported Syria and congratulated Damascus for thwarting American-Israeli designs in the Mideast through its “steadfast anti-imperialist line.” The original reconciliation conference opened in Geneva last October and lasted four days. It ended in failure.