The Christian hard-line Lebanese Forces militia, yielding to government pressure, announced Thursday it will relinquish its strongholds in the capital, paving the way for Lebanese soldiers to establish a militia-free unified Beirut.
"We have completed final touches on the Greater Beirut (security) plan and all obstacles have been removed," LF spokesman George Abdel Massih said.Abdel Massih expected the militia to withdraw its forces and heavy weapons from the Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh and the seaside LF headquarters in Karantina later Thursday or early Friday.
"The army troops will be deployed either at midnight or early tomorrow but it is up to the government to set the zero hour," he said.
But LF sources confirmed that the withdrawal of its forces and the army deployment will start simultaneously at 3 p.m. local time.
The LF decision came after a nightlong meeting at the temporary presidential headquarters in the mainly Moslem sector of west Beirut among President Elias Hrawi, army commander Emile Lahoud and a Christian militia delegation.
Official sources said the conferees agreed to a security plan to demilitarize Beirut following negotiations that lasted till dawn.
The sources said the implementation of the accord will start immediately after daylong "Independence Day" celebrations and will be completed early Friday.
The nation celebrated Independence Day as the Lebanese army held a military parade in the Syrian-policed west Beirut and warplanes and helicopters repeatedly roared over the city.
Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943 but since then an independent peaceful Christian-Moslem co-existence has remained fragile.