Mash-Hoor, a bearded Druse Moslem militiaman, greased his AK-47 and wrapped it tightly in a plastic bag to bury it - just in case. Thousands of gunmen like him are doing the same.

After countless bloody battles in the course of Lebanon's 15-year-old civil war, the three main Moslem and Christian militias agreed Thursday to withdraw from Beirut and its environs. But it is an uneasy peace."This rifle is mine," Mash-Hoor said. "I won it in a battle in 1984. Who knows when I or someone dear to me will need it?"

Approval of the withdrawal plan came from Samir Geagea's right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces militia, Nabih Berri's moderate Shiite Amal militia and Druse warlord Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party.

But Hezbollah, or Party of God, held off on promising a pullout. The Shiite group is believed be an umbrella for underground extremists holding most of the 13 missing Westerners in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, with some 3,500 main-force fighters, has long feuded with the more secular Amal for control of Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiites, the country's biggest sect.

The groundwork was laid for the militia withdrawal when President Elias Hrawi's Syrian backers crushed a mutiny by rebel Christian Gen. Michel Aoun Oct. 13 in fighting that killed up to 750 people in eight hours.

The ultimate objective is to disarm the militias and absorb some of their fighters into government security forces. But hardened gunslingers like Mash-Hoor - a nom de guerre meaning "Famous" - don't believe it will happen.

"No one believes they'll be disbanded. It never worked before. It won't work now," Mash-Hoor said.

There are about 20,000 fighters in the dozen or so militias. Many have their own personal arsenals of automatic weapons, grenade launchers, explosives and hand grenades.

During past disarmament bids, fighters handed over some weapons, but hid most of their arms - including tanks, artillery and mortars.

Many of the fighters, like Mash-Hoor, have known nothing but violence. They are school dropouts with no skills. Serving in the militia is a meal ticket - the fighters simply take what they want at restaurants, bars and gas stations.

Mash-Hoor has been a member of the Druse Progressive Socialist Party militia since he was seven years old. The civil war is all he's ever known.

He was born Marwan Yahya, and grew up in the Druse town of Shweifat, in the Chouf foothills. When the war broke out in 1975, he was only a child. But he quit school to join the fighters.

His first job in the militia was collecting empty cartridge cases to be refilled. He was dubbed Abu Khartoush - Father of the Bullets.

He attended school "on and off" during lulls in the fighting, but he found he no longer fit in.

"I was no longer willing to listen to teachers, do homework and be disciplined," he said. "I was Abu Khartoush."

At 12, he was renamed Abu Tabikh, or Father of Food, because "I was driving a Land Rover and distributing food to fighters on the front lines."

In 1983, he proved himself as a fighter, battling Christians in the Chouf Mountains, earning his fighting name. Warfare has been his trade ever since.