LONDON (Oct. 27)
The Lebanese crisis appeared today to be heading for the conference table but with the cards stacked against the Beirut regime which has tried to suppress Arab guerrilla warfare against Israel for fear of Israel’s reprisals.
According to Damascus Radio, Egypt, Syria and Libya have pledged their full support of the Palestinian guerrillas and said they would tolerate no attempts to hinder their activities.
The announcement was broadcast by the state-controlled Syrian radio after a meeting that was supposed to have been the beginning of a mediation effort undertaken by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt at the urgent request of the Lebanese President Charles Helou.
Col. Nasser’s personal envoy, Dr. Hassan Sabri al-Kholi, flew to Damascus yesterday where he met with Syria’s President, Dr. Nurredin al-Atassi; Col. Moussa Ahmed, the Libyan Minister of Interior; and Yassir Arafat, commander of El Fatah, the largest Palestinian guerrilla group.
Syria has strongly backed the guerrillas who invaded Lebanon over the weekend and have been battling Lebanese regulars along that country’s eastern frontier. Fighting slowed down today and the curfew was lifted in Beirut. But Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, was still under martial law. Part of the city was reportedly occupied by guerrillas.
President Nasser sent Dr. al-Kholi to Damascus after President Helou asked him to intercede to avert a full scale war between Lebanon and the guerrillas on its soil. The Egyptian envoy visited King Hussein of Jordan in Amman before arriving in the Syrian capital.
But sources in Damascus said that Mr. Arafat had succeeded in eliciting a public pledge of support for the guerrillas at the meeting. A statement issued by the Egyptian, Syrian and Libyan participants said that “there was full agreement on the necessity of supporting Palestinian commando resistance, being a genuine expression of the Arab people’s steadfastness and determination to liberate the occupied homeland. There was also full agreement,” the statement continued, “on ensuring full freedom for commando action throughout the Arab homeland and not tolerating any side attempting to strike at the commando movement or to place obstacles in its path or to try to stab it in the back.”
Dr. al-Kholi was expected to invite Arab envoys to a Lebanese peace conference, probably in Cairo. Egypt was said by Arabs to be striving for “restraint” and a compromise in the dispute. The Egyptian Government-controlled Middle East News Agency reported the text of a message sent to President Nasser by El Fatah yesterday. It denounced “agents of Zionism and imperialism in the Lebanese Government” and praised Col. Nasser’s “great stand on the side of the Palestinian revolution.”
(In Washington today, a U.S. State Department spokesman accused the Soviet Union of “making propaganda out of the difficulties confronting the Lebanese people.” Robert McCloskey accused Moscow of making unfounded charges against the U.S. in connection with the Lebanese crisis. He referred to a report by Tass, the official Soviet news agency, that the U.S. supported anti-guerrilla measures taken by the Beirut Government. Mr. McCloskey said the U.S. regretted such charges and said the present situation required “quiet diplomacy, not public argument. The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda warned today that NATO naval maneuvers off Lebanon “puts this explosive area on the brink of a very dangerous conflict.”)