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LEBANON - July 30 - Former Pres. Gemayel Returns From Exile.

Former Pres. Amin Gemayel, a Christian leader whose alliance with the US against Syria during Lebanon's civil war forced him into exile, returns for the 1st time in 8 years. Gemayel says he returned after assurances from the government of Pres. Lahoud. In his hometown of Bikfaya in the central mountains, some 3,000 supporters fill the streets. Gemayel tells reporters: "Today is the happiest day of my life. I come with an open heart and extended hand". (The former president, who led the country during some of the worst days of its 1975-90 civil war, had opposed Syria's military presence and influence over Lebanon. Gemayel took office in 1982, as Israeli troops seized the south. Gemayel struck an alliance with then-US Pres. Reagan against Syrian influence, backing a multinational peacekeeping mission that later collapsed in 1984 as attacks drove the US Marines from Beirut. He left for France at the end of his term in 1988. He returned in 1992 but flew back to Paris after receiving threats.) In a statement issued from Paris before his most recent return, Gemayel said he was now "ready and willing to have brotherly and fruitful cooperation" with Syria's new president, Bashar Al Assad. Gemayel had planned to return 2 weeks ago to attend a memorial for late Syrian Pres. Hafez Al Assad but was advised by Lebanon's Foreign Ministry not to get on the plane. Gemayel said he was told that the Syrian invitation was a "protocol error". The incident caused a public outcry, and Lebanon's prime minister later said in a statement that it was "a result of a misunderstanding... Nothing should stop the return of any Lebanese to his country". (Gemayel's return comes a month before parliamentary elections in which his son is running. Gemayel is expected to take an active part in the election campaign but not to run. His late father, Pierre, founded the Phalange Party, the country's largest Christian political party.)
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Aug 5, 2000
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