The Christian Lebanese Forces militia pulled heavy arms from east Beirut to main strongholds north of the city, preparing to dissolve its military presence in the region, sources and witnesses said Monday.

Christian security sources said the LF withdrew "a large number" of tanks, armored personnel carriers, military trucks and jeeps to the port of Jounieh, 12 miles north of Beirut, from the militia's east Beirut base of Ashrafiyeh.Witnesses said a large militia-manned convoy of tanks and trucks headed from Jounieh early Monday toward the mountainous district of Kesrwan, northeast of Beirut, where the LF maintains its main bases.

The pullout of heavy arms signaled the LF's willingness to facilitate a government strategy designed to eliminate all armed militia in and around Beirut.

But Christian political sources said Geagea told the government of Elias Hrawi that he was linking a complete disbanding of militia in east Beirut to the presence of rival Syrian-backed militia groups in the area and the formation of a new Cabinet.

The sources said Geagea told the Hrawi government he would not pull his gunmen from east Beirut as long as Syrian-backed militiamen remained active in the region.