In Lebanon, right-wing militia forces have been strengthened by the addition of 1,600 new recruits who graduated at a ceremony near Beirut on Sunday (2 October).
In Lebanon, right-wing militia forces have been strengthened by the addition of 1,600 new recruits who graduated at a ceremony near Beirut on Sunday (2 October). Their leader, National Liberal Party chief Camille Chamoun, vowed to continue reinforcing the militia as long as Palestinians remained in the country.
SYNOPSIS: The graduation took place in the town of Baabda after the recruits has trained for two weeks in mountain camps.
Originally the militia was formed in the 1950s as a private bodyguard for Mr. Chamoun, former Lebanese president and right-wing Christian leader. Party spokesmen claim there are now between 10 and 12 thousand militia in Lebanon. They say 4,000 of those can be raised and armed within an hour and a further 8,000 within two hours.
Many recruits are in their early teens, although organisers say those under 14 are not allowed to handle guns and only those who are 18 or over are issued with their own weapons. Most of the militia members are students.
Mr. Chamoun and other party leaders addressed the crowd of more than a thousand rightists during the ceremony.
He was greeted with roars of approval when he told the rally that he would continue to mobilise the militia as long as there were Palestinians in the Lebanon. Party officials urged their followers never to forget that Lebanese soil had been stained with the blood of martyrs fallen during the civil war. Since the end of the war, fighting between rightists and Palestinians has continued in southern Lebanon. Despite an official ceasefire some left-wingers have vowed to keep on fighting.
The recruits took an oath swearing to defend their country to the death - emphasising their loyalty with fascist-type salutes.