Parliament today granted the government of President Amin Gemayel emergency powers to allow it to rule by decree for the next six months and steer Lebanon toward a rapid recovery after eight years of turmoil and destruction.
The action came in a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Shafiq Wazzan's one-month-old Cabinet. The measure passed 58 to 1, thus enabling the Cabinet to legislate directly on a limited number of issues such as security, defense, taxation, justice, reconstruction and education.
However, the resolution excluded certain government-sought powers of particular interest to the legislators. The issues included the electoral laws, citizenship requirements and the redifinition of provincial boundaries. Wazzan also had sought decree power for eight months rather than six.
The compromise, which signaled the willingness of Lebanon's influential politicians to work with Gemayel's untried government, marked a victory for the new president, who took office Sept. 19, and avoided a head-on collision between the legislature and the 10-man Cabinet. Agreement was reached after the government agreed to the six-month limitation on its special powers.
The vote occurred against a background of sectarian fighting among Moslem Druze and Christians in the Chouf mountains east of Beirut and fresh difficulties in getting Israeli-Lebanese talks started on the withdrawal from the country of Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian forces.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told a visiting U.S. congressional delegation that negotiations on troop withdrawal could drag on for months, which, if true, would be a setback to Reagan administration hopes that agreement could be reached by the end of the year. [Details on Page A28]
[Israeli troops imposed a curfew on a number of the Chouf villages, including Kafr Nabrakh where a Druze attack on a Christian funeral procession touched off heavy fighting this week, and sealed off the town of Alayh after a land mine exploded near an Israeli jeep, United Press International reported. Six Lebanese were also detained after the explosion.]
Gemayel met today with Christian and Druze leaders at the presidential palace in Baabda near Beirut and later was quoted as saying he would undertake contacts with American officials to try to apply pressure on Israel to pull out its troops from the volatile Chouf.
Druze leaders and several Lebanese politicians have accused Israel of fomenting unrest there and refusing to turn over security to the Lebanese Army. It was agreed to try again to deploy the Army in areas affected by the fighting.
In Jerusalem, Shamir did not mention when direct Israeli-Lebanese talks might begin, but the independent daily An Nahar reported today that they are to start Wednesday or Thursday at Khaldah, just south of Beirut.
The usually authoritative newspaper said the Lebanon Beach Hotel at Khaldah was a compromise venue proposed by the U.S. mediators because it is located at the demarcation line between Israeli troops and the multinational peace-keeping force south of Beirut.
The delay in getting the talks started has been attributed to disagreement over the status of the negotiators as well as the venue. U.S. envoy Morris Draper, who returned to the Lebanese capital yesterday from Israel and held another talk with Gemayel, told reporters that "we shall see" when asked whether the withdrawal talks would really take place at the Khaldah hotel.
Lebanon has held to the position that it wants a military team headed by Brig. Abbad Hamdan to represent its side, with two legal advisers attending. Israel is pushing for civilian participation and direct talks, while Beirut is eager to keep them at military level and with the United States mediating as a third party.