Druze protests grow

BEIRUT (AFP) - Protests grew against expanding central government control yesterday, as mountain Druze communities went on a general strike, Druze radio said.

The strike was called by the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) led by the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who left his cabinet post on Thursday to protest over the way the Lebanese army took over state-owned buildings seized by the Druze during the civil war.

Meanwhile, thousands of people held a sit-in for a second day yesterday at the Baaqline municipal building, which the PSP turned into a national library in 1987. A second sit-in took place at the Emir Amin palace.

Mr Jumblatt said he and the Health Minister, Marwan Hamade, another Druze, were 'suspending' links with the government until troops evacuate the Beiteddin Palace, the Emir Amin Palace and the Baaqline library.

Mr Jumblatt said on Thursday in his home town in the Shuf mountains, south-east of Beirut, that he disapproved of the army's methods in recovering state- owned property seized illegally during the 16-year civil war. He warned of a 'Druze revolt unless (this) provocation is stopped'.

The government last week instructed the armed forces to recover state-owned property. The army has since taken over the Beirut headquarters of the former Christian Lebanese Forces militia, and regained control of facilities in the Bekaa Valley from the pro- Iranian Hizbollah movement.

The former president of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel, who fled to France in September 1988, returned yesterday from his voluntary exile to support right-wing Christians trying to block this month's general elections until Syrian forces move out of Beirut, AP reports.