President Elias Hrawi's government is moving to accelerate the process of unifying Beirut, disbanding rival militias and freeing Western hostages, aides said Monday.
They said plans were made during two days of talks in Damascus between Hrawi and Syrian President Hafez Assad, who renewed a pledge to support efforts to end Lebanon's 15-year-old civil war.Hrawi returned to Beirut on Sunday night, hours after gunmen killed Christian leader Dany Chamoun, 56, his wife and two young sons at their home in suburban Baabda.
Monday, the Christian area staged a daylong shutdown to protest the slayings, which came a week after Hrawi's army and Syrian troops crushed the mutiny of Christian Gen. Michel Aoun. The general took refuge in the French Embassy. Aoun's headquarters had been in Baabda.
Pro-Syrian groups blamed the killings on Christian warlord Samir Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces militia fought an unsuccessful four-month war early this year with Aoun's troops for mastery of the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut.
Geagea denied involvement in Chamoun's killing. He joined other Christian and Moslem leaders in urging Hrawi's government to bring peace to the area that had been controlled by Aoun's forces.
Hrawi told Syrian state television his government was resolved to end the militia control of Beirut.
"All militias will be disbanded by peaceful means, but we will use other means if we face objections," Hrawi said. "I warn everybody that no opposition by the gun or the cannon will be tolerated."
Prime Minister Salim Hoss headed for Damascus on Monday for talks with Syrian leaders on ways to end the 15-year division of Christian east Beirut and Moslem west Beirut.
A Hrawi aide said that within two weeks, the government wants Geagea's men to give the Lebanese army control of the three east Beirut districts they hold.
"If the Lebanese Forces agree to a peaceful handover, then there will be no need for Syrian troops to enter east Beirut like they did with Aoun's zone. The ball is in Geagea's court," the aide said.