The Cabinet of Lebanese President Amin Gemayel voted unanimously today to approve the agreement for Israeli troop withdrawal as the two sides moved toward a formal signing, probably next week.
U.S., Israeli and Lebanese negotiating teams are to meet Sunday in Netanya, Israel, to handle final details and set a date for signing the accord. Speculation here was that it might be signed on Tuesday.
A statement by Gemayel's 10-member Cabinet said only that it would be signed "in due time."
Implementation of the agreement, which was worked out during Secretary of State George P. Shultz's two-week diplomatic mission here, is still in doubt, however, because of the strong and growing opposition of Syria. Israel has said it will not withdraw its 20,000 troops from Lebanon until Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization withdraw theirs.
In an apparent effort to get broader national support for the Lebanese-Israeli agreement, Gemayel, according to Beirut newspapers, plans to ask Parliament to endorse it. Under powers given Gemayel when he was elected last September, parliamentary approval is not required for the agreement.
Today, however, a group of Lebanese political leaders friendly with Syria announced their rejection of the agreement after a meeting in the northern Lebanese town of Zghorta. The group included former prime minister Rashid Karami, the elder statesman of Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city; Walid Jumblatt, head of the Moslem Druze sect and leader of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party; former president Suleiman Franjieh, and Lebanese Communist Party General Secretary George Haoui.
All had been in touch with Syrian envoys before meeting today. Gemayel talked with Franjieh after their meeting and promised to send a representative to Zghorta on Monday to receive a statement outlining their objections.
Gemayel also said he would send two Cabinet members to several Arab capitals to seek support for the agreement with Israel.
Syria has encouraged internal Lebanese opposition to the agreement and its rejection by other Arab states. An envoy from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi arrived in Damascus after Qaddafi called Syrian President Hafez Assad yesterday, according to the official Syrian news agency.
The agency gave no details of the Libyan envoy's mission, nor did it report what the two hard-line Arab leaders had discussed.
The Syrian government newspaper Tishrin published what it said was the full text of the agreement today, saying it was doing so because it was necessary for Arabs to see the harm that such a deal would do, Reuter reported. The Syrian version contained no significant provisions beyond those leaked to the press earlier in Lebanon and Israel. The official text is not expected to be made public until after the agreement is signed.
Meanwhile, PLO officials in Damascus said today that PLO leader Yasser Arafat had returned to Lebanon yesterday for the first time since he was evacuated from Beirut during the Israeli siege last summer.
Arafat traveled from Damascus to the Syrian-controlled northern Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon to inspect some of the estimated 8,000 PLO fighters still in Lebanon.
The Los Angeles Times reported from Cairo:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a speech to parliament, said today that all Arab countries should support the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon.
"We were the first to welcome the agreement, which has had the support of Lebanon's people," Mubarak said.
"We believe that this people has the final say on everything relating to its soil, security and rights. It is more capable than anyone to draw up the framework within which it can regain its land and guarantee its rights. We therefore appeal to all Arab brothers not to withhold backing and support of their Lebanese brothers at these critical moments," he said.
"It is unacceptable--whatever the circumstances--that the Arab stance should prolong the Israeli occupation or permit the reappearance of attempts at partition."