PARIS (Jun. 17)
President Hafez Assad of Syria began a three-day state visit to France today under the shadow of a worsening crisis in Lebanon where the United States Ambassador and the American Economic Counselor were murdered yesterday Greeting the Syrian leader at Orly Airport this morning. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing spoke of France’s “anxiety to see Lebanon’s independence and integrity maintained.”
Assad replied that he intended to continue Syria’s armed intervention in Lebanon “as a matter of national duty which will go on in spite of the difficulties it meets and the sacrifices it entails.” His words were taken to mean that Syria’s policy has been unchanged by recent events and it will press its military intervention in Lebanon regardless of the setbacks and loss of prestige that Syria has suffered.
Well informed sources here reported today that a number of Syrian army officers have been arrested for opposing Assad’s intervention. The sources said that the Syrian-sponsored Al Saiqa terrorists stationed in Lebanese towns and in Beirut have virtually disintegrated and have lost themselves among the general population. Most of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) has joined forces with Yasir Arafat’s PLO which the Syrians have been fighting. The newspaper France Soir reported today that Syrian troops barracked in a Damascus suburb mutinied today, as Assad was taking off for Paris.
The Syrian President will hold three days of private talks with Giscard which are expected to be devoted mainly to the Lebanese situation. The French President will give a diplomatic reception and state dinner in honor of his guest at the Elysee Palace. The Israeli Ambassador, obviously, was not invited. The Iraqi Ambassador to France, Munzer Al-Wendaqui, who was, said today he would not attend because “I am not prepared to shake a blood-stained hand (Assad’s) that is carrying out the plans of international Zionism to liquidate the revolution and the Arab liberation movement.”