BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The Palestine Liberation Organization has refused to give up its bases in southern Lebanon to allow the Lebanese army to deploy there, adding another complication to government plans to disarm all factions after 16 years of civil war, security officials and published reports said yesterday.
Concern also deepened over a reported message from the Bush administration criticizing what the Beirut daily As Safir called "Lebanesegovernment procrastination" in disarming about 11,000 PLO guerrillas in various parts of the country.
The newspaper reported that unidentified officials said the government of President Elias Hrawi was disappointed by the U.S. stance because it had been counting on Washington's support to get Israel to evacuate a buffer zone it carved out in southern Lebanon.
Beirut's leading daily, An Nahar, reported yesterday that the PLO had sent word from its headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, that its fighterswould not give up their bases until Israel and a surrogate militia evacuated two Christian towns, Jezzin and Kfar Falous, also east of Sidon, and allow Lebanese government troops to be deployed there.
The United States and other Western powers have thrown their weight behind a 19-month-old Lebanese national reconciliation pact intended to stop the factional violence.
Lebanese militias have been handing over weapons to the authorities, and a restructured national army has deployed in most districts.