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Lebanese Reconciliation Talks End in Total Failure

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The Lebanese national reconciliation conference ended here last night after nine days of fruitless deliberations between the leaders of the warring Christian and Moslem factions failed to achieve even a semblance of unity.

“It is a complete failure. Fighting will start soon once again. Nothing has been achieved.” That was the only consensus among the various delegates as they boarded their planes to return home. Fighting in fact was resumed only a few days after an “indefinite” cease-fire was called a week ago and reached a new pitch of intensity this morning.

The conference produced no agreements, even in principle, over how Lebanon is to be governed in the future and no formula for sharing political power. It did call for the formation of a constitutional commission of 32 members to be appointed by President Amin Gemayel. The commission’s task is to prepare a draft constitution and report its results within six months.

But the conferees themselves acknowledged that this was little more than a face-saving device permitting them to return home not empty-handed. The same was said of another document calling for a separation of forces in Lebanon, return of soldiers to their barracks and a cessation of negative media campaigns.

This was the second national reconciliation conference to end in failure. The first, held in Geneva last November, broke up after four days. But the latest round can be considered at least a Pyrrhic victory for the Maronite Christian faction headed by Gemayel who remains in office for the time being. It was also a setback for the Syrians who dominated the proceedings behind the scenes and desired an agreement which would have substantially increased the power of the Druze and Shiite Moslem factions which Syria has backed against the Gemayel regime.

Some Lebanese sources close to Druze leader Walid Jumblatt blamed Israel today for the failure of the conference. They claimed that the Christians were under heavy pressure from Israel to yield nothing. Nevertheless, some observers believe that a third round of reconciliation talks is possible sometime in the future.

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