Standing straight in his darkened office, Pierre Gemayel listened to the artillery rounds exploding nearby and said, "If Syria agrees to a cease-fire, of course, we will accept it immediately."
The leader of the Phalange, the largest Christian militia fighting the Syrians, was speaking several hours before the latest cease-fire was announced. He had few illusions about its durability.
A veteran of countless broken cease-fire since the Lebanese fighting began in 1975. Sheik Pierre, as he is known throughout Christian Lebanon, was in a somber mood. Surprisingly youthful at 73, his hair plastered down on his lean skull. Gemayel sprinkled an hour-long interview with an apocalyptic vision of ruin, death and the "shame" of Western civilization unwilling to save Lebanon's embattled Christians.
He was less critical of the Christians' latest ally. Israel, which for the first time in a two-year relationship has failed so far to provide enough military muscle to relieve the pressure.
Outside his office near the Mediterranean, cars raced by at breakneck speed. Syrian shells landed in the sea several miles to the south, where already damaged fuel storage tanks continued to burn while fresh fires glowed in the autumn sun nearer by.
Throughout the Christian territory, or at least the considerable portion under Syrian artillery and heavy mortar fire, most Christians remained indoors behind shuttered blinds and windows.
An occasional round landed on the main roads far from the main battle as if to remind civilians that venturing forth was unsafe. Yet at a crossroads replete with a giant portrait of Sheik Pierre near the Phalange office, a young man calmly sold newspapers. Shops, even in seemingly deserted mountain villages, were open.
Gemayel's son Amin said as many as 200,000 Christians have been forced from their homes by the fighting, especially residents of East Beirut and Christian suburbs.
Forty thousand are living in tents, he said. For the time being, many other refugees have found shelter in unheated summer homes in the mountains, but winter is approaching.
Despite Syrian gunfire and the limited size of port facilities, the Christians are bringing in 300 tons of food, arms an ammunition every two or three days, the young Gemayel said, "from Israel, Cyprus, the United States."
In contrast with other Christian claims of desperate medical supply shortages, he said the Christians had been well stocked and only now were feeling the pinch. But it was his father's view of a disappearing Lebanon which set the tone. Dressed in an elegant black leisure suit, Sheik Pierre lamented the end of his dream of a strong, respected Christian-led Lebanon.
"Instead of unity, the country is ruined," he said. "My [moutain home] at Bikfaya, 442 years old, the oldest in town, the pride of my life, destroyed.
"We are perishing. We are dead. This is shameful," he said. "How shameful for the civilized world to react to the Lebanese drama like this, to see the destruction of the only country in the Middle East which enjoyed real freedom, civilization and democracy."
Sheik Pierre was told about the failure of Israel to come more forcefully to the Christian's aid this time.
"No, I am not disappointed," he said. "They do things in their own interest. Sometimes their interest and ours coincided and that was fine."
Despite obvious anger at Syrian behavior, Gemayel recalled that it was Syrian President Hafez Assad who saved the Christians two years ago, when Palestinians and their leftist Lebanese allies threatened to engulf them.
As for the future, the young Gemayel, a leader in his father's party, said he favored a federal system with an area for the Palestinians and another for the Christians and where the Christians - and not Syrians or anyone else - would be in charge of their security.
Asked if the Christians had ever erred in the long struggle, Sheik Pierre said, "Only the good Lord and the pope are infallible, but if we have made a single error they [his adversaries] have made 1,000.
"We will fight as long as we are alive," he said, "the good Lord has not yet had pity on me. I am still on the cross."