AYN ZHALTA, LEBANON, SEPT. 20 -- Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said goodbye to 800 of his mountain warriors today on the eve of their departure for Libya, where, for money and arms, they are to fight alongside Libyan troops of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in his war with Chad over the Aozou Strip.

Wearing Soviet-issue desert combat fatigues, packs and black boots, the Druze fighters, aged 18 to 25, broke into song when Jumblatt arrived, flanked by his tall, blond wife and Libyan diplomats based in Syria.

Young men of the Progressive Socialist Party carried large red banners as the fighters pledged their "blood and soul" to Jumblatt, then listened solemnly as he announced that the time had come to "pay back our Libyan brothers for standing by us in our wars against invaders."

Jumblatt's party and militia have received financial and military backing from Libya since the start of Lebanon's civil war in 1975. "As you stood by us in our honorable war against the Americans, the crusaders {Christians} and the Israelis, we will do likewise and stand by you against France and the United States, the enemies of the Arabs and Islam," said Jumblatt in this town 15 miles southeast of Beirut.

"Let France be damned," Jumblatt said, banging the door of his Mercedes when prodded to say whether he was sending his men off to fight the French. France has supported Chad in its efforts to expel Libyan forces occupying northern areas of that central African nation.

Despite the rhetoric, it was evident that economic straits and a shortage of hard currency to fund his 5,000 militiamen and semiautonomous fiefdom had compelled Jumblatt to commit his young fighters to Libya.

Questioned about financial reward in return for the first batch of militia recruits, Jumblatt answered nervously, "Yes, yes, yes. Libyan assistance and support, whether financial or military, is not new, and it is not a secret."

Many fighters did not seem to know why they were going or whom they were going to fight. Some said they had war under their skin, while others said they were "just fed up with Lebanon."

Led by commander Jamal Hamad, the Druze unit is to be armed and equipped once it reaches Libya. "Maybe we will bring arms back with us," Hamad said.

Another fighter said, "Death is the same everywhere, and maybe we will come back in boxes." A western diplomat familiar with the terrain in the Aozou Strip, contested by Libya and Chad, said, "None of them may come back alive."

The recruiting drive began shortly after Jumblatt returned from a trip to Libya in August. Each party center in the Druze mountains was asked to contribute 200 men. The Lebanese Communist Party also provided 200 fighters, who will be going to Libya under Hamad's command.

The Druze commander chuckled when asked whether he knew that Libya had officially announced that its war with Chad was over. "What, a cease-fire? Maybe they are just waiting for us."

Militia sources said the salaries promised to the fighters are $1,000 a month for officers, $700 for sergeants and $500 for soldiers. Hamad said doctors, cooks and male nurses were also in his unit. One former university student, who said that all his applications for scholarships had been turned down, sighed, "I am more than desperate."

Palestinian guerrilla fighters, hard pressed for cash, also are offering to join the soldiers of fortune going to Libya, Palestinian sources said. Among those said to be seeking work are members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, or Abu Nidal group, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command led by Ahmed Jibril.

The recent scarcity of the large-scale battles that have absorbed thousands of Lebanese gunmen over 12 years of war has made it difficult for them to earn a living. Economic ills and an annual inflation rate of 300 percent are driving career gunmen to the Persian Gulf and to Libya.

"We wish for a political end to the war in Lebanon, but during this truce we now have we are volunteering to help the Libyan people," Jumblatt said.