NEW YORK (Jun. 12)
The commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Forces, El Fadhi Frem, warned here today that continued Syrian influence in Lebanon could result within a few months in Syria’s “total control of Lebanon and its removal from any affiliation with the West.”
Frem told a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that the “Syrianization” of his country “imperils not only the future of Lebanon but also the security of Israel and the freedom of the Christian West.”
He said he had come to the United States “to activate the American Lebanese community,” which he said numbered about 1.5 million Christians, and to “ring the alarm” of the impending crisis if Syria is allowed to continue to dominate the central government in Beirut.
CHRISTIANS DETERMINED IN OPPOSITION
The Lebanese Forces commander said the Christian Forces, which he heads, was determined to oppose such a take over from Syria “politically and if necessary, militarily.” He said he understood that the forthcoming elections in the U.S. and in Israel had put “constraints” on Washington and Jerusalem in regard to their involvement in Lebanon, but that he hoped they understood the importance of action to stop the “free hand” Syria now had in Lebanon.
Furthermore, Frem said the Lebanese Forces proposed a political decentralization of Lebanon that would provide each of the ethnic and religious groups in the country autonomy, including control of its educational system. “We don’t want our children to learn the Koran,” he declared.
The Lebanese Forces commander, who said he was named to his post before the assasination of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982, indicated he was optimistic that the Druze community would support his decentralization plan. He also said his group was working with other Christian groups “to prevent a total Syrian takeover.”
According to Frem, under the present government in Lebanon, which he described as a “puppet government,” west Beirut has “again become the center of world terrorism.” The German Bader-Meinhof gang is now in west Beirut along with terrorists from the Far East and PLO factions headed by George Habash and Nayef Hawatmeh.
FRIENDSHIP FOR ISRAEL
He expressed admiration and friendship for Israel and said he strongly urged Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir to keep the present Israeli political mission in east Beirut. “If Israel were to withdraw this last outpost,” he warned, “it would prove to be a blow to the anti-Syrian forces and also to Israel’s own hopes of retaining any influence in the area.”
He voiced “deep regret” that Lebanese President Amin Gemayel had abrogated the May 17 troop withdrawal and security pact with Israel. “That agreement was a demonstration of the free political will of the Lebanese people, and we were the fiercest defenders of it,” he said.
The Lebanese forces commander said the hoped to organize the Lebanese Christian community in the United States, plus Lebanese Christians in other parts of “our diaspora,” including Brazil, where they number 3 million. “We are not as well organized as the Jewish community,” he said. “But we hope you will help us in this effort to win public opinion and public support for our cause — the cause of a free and independent Lebanon.”