Amin Gemayel was sworn in today as Lebanon's new president and said that his first priority is to end "the vicious cycle of bloody violence" in which this war-exhausted nation has become enmeshed.
In a 50-minute ceremony held in a heavily guarded Army barracks east of Beirut and attended by almost all of Lebanon's political patriarchs, Gemayel, a Christian, pledged to work for the reestablishment of a strong central government and Army and for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
He also promised to strengthen Lebanon's relations with "our brothers, the Arabs," a remark aimed at reassuring this country's uneasy Moslem community.
Gemayel made no mention of Israel or of the possibility of his signing a peace treaty with the Jewish state -- which is strongly opposed by the Moslems -- during a 12-minute televised speech to the nation.
Present for the ceremony was U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib, who arrived here yesterday and was arranging final details of the deployment of the international peace-keeping force being sent here in the wake of the massacre of civilians in two Palestinian camps last week.
The first contingent of the force, a unit of 350 French paratroopers, arrived in the port of Beirut in a troop ship Friday morning and went ashore, United Press International reported.
It still was far from clear where the force, consisting of roughly 3,000 French, American and Italian troops, will be deployed inside the city.
Two hours before the inauguration ceremony got under way today, the city was rocked by a gigantic explosion as 800 tons of captured Palestinian ammunition and rockets stored in a Lebanese Army depot in East Beirut went up in flames. The blast, which resulted in the death of one woman and injuries to 38 persons, set off fires in nearby warehouses that were still burning out of control at nightfall. The cause of the explosion was not known.
Tonight clashes erupted in West Beirut between Israeli troops and leftist Lebanese militiamen, news services reported.
The rightist-controlled Voice of Free Lebanon radio station said the bodies of three Israeli soldiers who reportedly disappeared Wednesday night were discovered in Beirut's Burj abu Haidar neighborhood, The Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military command in Tel Aviv said three other Israeli soldiers were wounded when their patrol vehicle was hit by bazooka rockets in West Beirut's Ramlet el Baidah district Thursday, the AP report added.
The new 40-year-old Lebanese president is the older brother of Bashir Gemayel, the president-elect and head of the Christian militia forces who died in an explosion nine days ago. He becomes Lebanon's seventh president since its independence from French rule in 1943.
Dressed in a white suit and dark tie, Amin Gemayel took the oath of allegiance shortly before noon as he stood beneath a picture of his slain brother in the auditorium of the military academy in Fayyadieh, three miles east of Beirut.
The ceremony could not be held in the parliament building in downtown Beirut because it was damaged during the fighting in the city during the past three months.
Following the swearing-in, Gemayel turned to embrace his father, Pierre, 77, an architect of modern-day Lebanon, and then went into an adjacent reception hall where the first person to present his congratulations -- with three kisses on each cheek -- was Habib.
Lebanon's Moslems, who total more than half the population, widely regard Amin Gemayel as more moderate and thus preferable as president to his brother.
But his ability to control the Christian militia forces his brother commanded with an iron fist is open to considerable doubt and the cause of considerable fear already among Moslems, particularly after the forces' reported involvement in the massacre of Palestinian brother commanded with an iron fist is open to considerable doubt and the cause of considerable fear already among Moslems, particularly after the forces' reported involvement in the massacre of Palestinian civilians.
The sad state in which Lebanon finds itself was reflected in Gemayel's speech. He said the country was facing "fateful tomorrows" and he was determined to lead what he called "the march of salvation."
"I shall offer no program for a new era," he said, "because a single concern grips us now. This is to stop the vicious cycle of bloody violence on Lebanon's soil. The wars in Lebanon and at Lebanon's expense must stop."
"The security of the nation must be guaranteed as well as that of its citizens," he continued. "This will not be fulfilled except through a strong, independent, sovereign state preserving public liberties and working for the evacuation of all foreign armies from Lebanon's soil."
This was a reference to the Israeli forces, which currently occupy all of Lebanon from Beirut southward, the Syrian Army stationed in the eastern Bekaa Valley and Palestinian guerrillas based in the north. Gemayel said he would not accept any "dual allegiances" and called upon Lebanon's multiple sectarian communities at war with each other to give priority to national unity.
He also made a special plea for national reconciliation to former president Suleiman Franjieh, who from his summer home near Tripoli in the north said yesterday that he would refuse to recognize Gemayel's election. Franjieh blames Bashir Gemayel for the murder of his son, Tony, and he has openly gloated over his rival's assassination.
[Saad Haddad, the renegade Lebanese Army major who heads his own Israeli-supported Christian militia in southern Lebanon, denied any involvement of his troops in the massacres, the Los Angeles Times reported. Haddad said that none of his troops was within 25 miles of the camps during the period of the slaughter and that he was certain that the Phalangist Party led by the Gemayel family was solely responsible.]