BEIRUT, Lebanon – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) said Friday he will abide by any decision that Lebanon takes on disarming Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon.
Lebanon hosts more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees, including thousands of armed guerrillas from the mainstream Palestinian Fatah (search) faction, in densely populated camps around the country that are off limits to the Lebanese government.
Authorities fear there would be bloodshed if they go into the camps, where many Islamic militant fugitives are known to be hiding. The first refugees came to Lebanon after the 1948 war that saw the creation of Israel.
"We are guests in Lebanon, temporary guests, and we are subject to Lebanese laws just like everybody else in Lebanon," Abbas said after talks with President Emile Lahoud (search).
Abbas arrived in Beirut Friday from neighboring Damascus where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Besides meeting with Lahoud, Abbas will see Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He is also scheduled to meet with a Palestinian delegation from refugee camps in Lebanon.
Abbas is widely expected to discuss the issue of disarming Palestinians living in the country as demanded by U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which calls on Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to give up their weapons.
The resolution of last September refers to the Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah guerrilla group — which continues to fight Israel in a small contested area near the south Lebanon border — and thousands of armed Palestinians living in 12 Palestinian camps across Lebanon.
Hezbollah has refused to disarm and the Lebanese government, which considers the group to be a legitimate resistance group, supports its stance, saying disarmament hinges on an overall peace settlement with Israel.
Abbas would likely be heavily criticized back home for disarming them; it might be perceived as an introduction to permanently setting the Palestinians in Lebanon.
Abbas' predecessor, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was never willing or politically able to give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees in Arab countries.