Promising to end the country's 15-year civil war and make Lebanon once again "the jewel of the Middle East," President Elias Hrawi has pledged to halt the chaos of militia rule within six months.

That's an ambitious and worthwhile goal, but achieving it may be something else.Backed by 40,000 Syrian troops, Hrawi said the government would disband all private militias and give their weapons to the army.

Evacuation of the militias from the capital is a key clause of an Arab-brokered peace plan giving Moslems more say in the previously Christian-dominated political system.

According to Hrawi, there will no longer be East or West Beirut - but only Greater Beirut as a symbol for a united Lebanon. He promised that it will be a country of freedom, where citizens can express opinions without resorting to guns.

As hopeful as this sounds, there are many obstacles in the way. More than one hopeful plan for peace in Lebanon has fallen apart in recent years.

A whole generation of armed splinter groups, divided by religious and political hatreds, are not going to become peace-loving citizens overnight.

And even if a measure of stability can eventually be restored to long-suffering Lebanon, other problems remain.

If peace is imposed by Syrian troops, who can guarantee that Syria will go home again? Despotic Syrian leader Haafez Assad, a sponsor of terrorism, has his own ambitions. And the lack of internal conflict in Lebanon may simply mean that more violence will be aimed at Israel.

Over the weekend, another suicide bomber - the 23rd since 1985 - detonated a handbag packed with explosives near an Israeli patrol in southern Lebanon. Two soldiers reportedly were injured.

The attack occurred only hours after an Israeli gunboat sank a dinghy off southern Lebanon, killing at least four guerrillas who were allegedly planning a raid in Israel.

A 440-square-mile security zone in Southern Lebanon is controlled by Israel as a buffer zone against cross-border guerrilla attacks. Hrawi's government has said it will seek to end Israel's occupation once the withdrawal of militias is complete.

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is part of a coalition of Lebanese leftists and pro-Syrian Palestinian factions engaged in a guerrilla war aimed at dislodging Israel from the border enclave.

The party advocates the creation of a greater Syria by merging Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, pre-Israel Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait and Cyprus.

Even though Lebanon's president is making inroads that are to be applauded, there is almost certainly heavy conflict still ahead for Lebanon and for neighboring Israel.