The commander of Lebanon's Maronite Christian militia, Bashir Gemayel, returned today from talks with Arab officials in Saudi Arabia with no indication that a compromise had been reached on the volatile Lebanese conflict.
Gemayel, who has been associated unofficially with Israel, appeared not to have softened his long-term animosity toward the Palestinians and accused them of "procrastination" and "lying" to gain time and hold off an Israeli attack on their strongholds in West Beirut.
The Christian leader suddenly flew to Taif, the Saudi summer capital, yesterday and met with high Saudi officials and other key Arab officials attending an Arab League meeting on the crisis in Lebanon. His surprise initiative was viewed here as an apparent quest for Arab backing of his effort to become president of Lebanon in exchange for help in stopping an Israeli assault on Beirut.
A Christian militia spokesman in East Beirut said Gemayel had told the Arabs that he opposes any Palestinian presence in Lebanon. He ruled out military, political or information offices, however symbolic, the spokesman said.
The Taif meetings were closed. According to a United Press International report, however, Arab League Secretary General Chedli Klibi told a news conference after the meeting ended, "The Palestinian proposals (for a disengagement in Lebanon) were acceptable to all parties, with the exception of one party, who is Bashir Gemayel. The committee therefore invited him to participate in the discussions. I can say the talks with him were positive."
Despite flights over the city by Israeli warplanes, the cease-fire appeared generally to hold for a seventh day.
Israel's military command said gunfire wounded three of its soldiers near the Syrian-Israeli cease-fire line east of Beirut, The Associated Press reported. It was the first violation reported by Israel in six days.
The four major parties involved in the negotiations--Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Lebanon and the United States--reportedly agree in principle that the guerrillas will leave Beirut. The negotiations have broken down, however, on the questions of what arms they will take with them and whether the PLO can maintain political or other offices here after they leave.
Gemayel charged that the Palestinians "think they are being smart and they are going to gain time until some United Nations resolution is passed or some country comes up with an initiative out of sympathy or because of its own domestic interests."
"The Palestinians will bear the full responsibility" if the predominantly Moslem western sector of the capital "is destroyed," he said.
"If the Lebanese people want to live in dignity and peace," he said, "they have to start a battle against the Palestinian killers. The Lebanese people have to fight to get their freeedom and independence."
Little progress was reported in the negotiations. The Israelis insisted that the Palestinians leave or face the military consequences, and the guerrillas maintained that there was no good reason they should not stay put.
Adding to the confusion was a Lebanese state radio report tonight saying that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat scaled back his original definition of what constituted an honorable solution. In a meeting last night with Prime Minister Shafiq Wazzan, the radio reported, Arafat said he would accept being allowed a military presence of no more than two battalions of 250 men each. They would be under Lebanese Army control, one in the north, the other in the upper Bekaa Valley, and would be withdrawn entirely when the last Syrian and Israeli troops had left Lebanon, according to the radio. Yet the radio dropped the news report after its first broadcast.
A Saudi plan quoted by serious Lebanese newspapers this morning had sought to maintain 800 to 1,000 Palestinians in regular units under Lebanese authority but without any proviso for their eventual removal and disbanding. Earlier in the week, Palestinian officials had mentioned figures as high as 10,000 to 12,000 men in such regular Army units under Lebanese authority.
Indicative of the confusion surrounding the negotiations was the outcome of the PLO executive committee meeting last night. The newspaper An Nahar reported that the leaders--Arafat, George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others--"agreed in principle to a military pullout from Beirut and for the political leadership to leave as well." The plan, however, called for the withdrawal to be spread over eight weeks. Israel has insisted on a quick solution so it can demobilize its forces deployed in Lebanon.
High-ranking Palestinians at the meeting said the leaders had rejected all of Israel's demands. Other examples of differing Palestinian views abounded. Salah Khalaf, the second-ranking Palestinian leader, said the PLO was still demanding a unilateral Israeli withdrawal and a multinational buffer force before leaving, demands already rejected by Israel.
Former prime minister Saeb Salam told reporters after receiving Hani Hasan, an Arafat aide, that the PLO "does not want to keep a military presence in Lebanon" but insisted on a diplomatic role like that enjoyed by the PLO in other Arab countries.
Meanwhile, for the second night in a row, just after midnight Israeli jets dropped yellow flares over the largely deserted southern suburbs of the city in apparent efforts to intimidate residents of West Beirut. In addition, at 2 a.m. today Israeli jets conducted what amounted to mock air raids and broke the sound barrier over the city--some people claimed concussion bombs were also dropped--to keep West Beirut further on edge. In the late evening, the planes returned, dropping flares and making sonic booms over West Beirut. Palestinian guerrillas and Lebanese leftist militia fired tracer bullets at the flares.
In another development, PLO spokesman Mahmud Labadi asked President Reagan to send a commission to investigate Israel's use of cluster bombs on Palestinian refugee camps.
In related developments, news services also reported:
* In a joint initiative, France and Egypt called for a U.N. Security Council intervention in the Middle East crisis without formally proposing a meeting of the body.
* Three leading Jews sent a joint declaration to the French daily Le Monde calling on Israel to cease hostilities in Lebanon and open talks with the PLO. Pierre Mendes-France, a former French prime minister; Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress; and Philip Klutznick, commerce secretary in the Carter adminstration, said Israel and the PLO should recognize each others' right to self-determination and national independence.