Syria has brought its campaign of opposition to the Israeli-Lebanese peace accords inside Lebanon and is seeking to drum up internal resistance to the tentative agreement.
Syrian President Hafez Assad dispatched an envoy yesterday to meet with an assortment of dissident Lebanese figures and political chieftains. They are to proclaim on Saturday a "national front" opposed to the accords, according to a pro-Syrian daily here.
Today in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Abdul Halim Khaddam, comparing the agreement to the World War II French government's capitulation to Nazi rule, appeared to urge citizens of Lebanon to rise up in resistance. Khaddam suggested the model of the underground French resistance.
"That alternative led to the fall of Nazism not only in France but in the whole world," he said. "It is not just a choice between suicide and surrender . . . . When people discuss their future and freedom they find an alternative."
Assad also attacked the draft agreement Friday, saying in a statement that it would make Lebanon a protectorate of Israel. But his tough criticism differed from an earlier statement by Khaddam by omitting the word "rejection," while saying Syria did not agree with the draft, Reuter reported. Diplomats in Beirut said it was possible Assad had made the distinction to leave the door fractionally ajar for negotiating changes in the pact, the news agency said.
Khaddam's remarks followed meetings he and Assad had today with Lebanese Foreign Minister Elie Salem, who brought the final draft of the agreement. The Syrians underscored their previously stated objection, claiming without elaboration today that the pact would be "a grave danger" to Syria's security.
Afterward Salem said the Syrian stance would not deter Lebanon from signing it.
"We knew that President Assad was against it . . . ," Salem said. "There are different interpretations to every agreement and we disagree with the Syrian interpretation."
Israel has made it clear it will not withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon unless Syria, and the Palestine Liberation Organization fighters behind Syrian lines, pull out also. As a result, the strong Syrian attack on the accords, which began a week ago even as the Israeli Cabinet was meeting to vote on them, are not minimized here.
But the Lebanese have moved ahead on the agreement with Israel as Syria daily issues threats. The Lebanese appear to be waiting for time, the workings of American diplomatic efforts and the expectation of a Saudi payment to the Syrians to resolve the problem.
In the meantime, President Amin Gemayel has sought to build strong support among moderate Arab states and major powers and an internal consensus, holding meetings this week with various political and religious leaders.
A prominent Kuwaiti columnist, Ahmed Jarallah, said in his newspaper As Siyassa yesterday that most Arab countries are in favor of the Lebanese-Israeli accords, and he strongly criticized Syria for being unduly bellicose. He said the Syrians were "bluffing" when they pretended to be ready for war with Israel, saying Syria exaggerates its military capability.
Assad, meanwhile, has sent envoys to Lebanon to meet with former Lebanese premier Rashid Karami and former Lebanese president Suleiman Franjieh, who has been a de facto ally of Syria in the past and is in a blood feud with the Gemayel family. They and the head of the Moslem Druze sect in Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt, were reported by the pro-Syrian daily Ash Sharq today as being the key figures in the apparently Syrian-aided National Front.