Christian ex-president Suleiman Franjieh met the commander of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia today in the mountain resort of Ehden in a drive to patch up intra-Christian differences before the formation of a Syrian-blessed national unity front.
The surprise encounter between the 74-year-old Franjieh, a staunch Syrian ally, and the new strongman of the Christian militia, Elie Hobeika, who was previously associated with Israel, baffled Moslem leaders and raised suspicions that a campaign is under way to isolate beleaguered President Amin Gemayel, also a Christian.
Franjieh traveled to the Syrian capital Monday for discussions with Shiite Moslem Amal movement leader Nabih Berri and Druze chief Walid Jumblatt. The two politicians were stunned when Franjieh told them not to be shocked when they read about the Ehden meeting with Hobeika in Thursday's newspapers.
This is the first visit by a Lebanese Forces commander to Franjieh since 1978. The former president bears a grudge against the Gemayel family over the murder of Franjieh's son.
Hobeika described today's discussions as very positive, and one of his key advisers, Karim Pakradouni, denied reports that the rapprochement is aimed at unseating Gemayel.
Pakradouni, a former member of the Phalangist Party politburo and confidant of Gemayel's late brother Bashir, admitted that the Lebanese Forces command is at odds with the president, however.
It is inconceivable that the Franjieh-Hobeika get-together took place without Syrian approval.