U.S. Welcomes Israel’s Move to Remove All Its Forces from South Lebanon

The State Department welcomed Israel’s announcement yesterday that all of its forces would be withdrawn from south Lebanon by June 13. Commenting on the Israeli Cabinet’s decision, Department spokesman Tom Reston noted today that when Premier Menachem Begin was in Washington earlier this month, he promised Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that the Cabinet would decide on a final date for withdrawal "and that is what the Israeli Cabinet has done."

With respect to the questions put to Israel by the U.S. for clarification of aspects of its peace plan, Reston told reporters, "We have no time deadline in reviewing or getting those answers back." The Israeli Cabinet had been expected to discuss the matter at its weekly session yesterday but instead deferred it to a later date.

Reston’s statement on south Lebanon said: "We obviously welcome the announcement of the date by which Israel will complete its withdrawal from Lebanon. The U.S. strongly supports United Nations Resolution 425 which calls for Israel’s withdrawal and established the UN peacekeeping force in order to restore peace and security in the area and restoration of the Lebanese government’s authority over south Lebanon. We have been impressed with the speed with which the UN force was established and put into place."

Reston added, "We believe it is important to implement all element of Resolution 425 so that Lebanese authority over the area can be reestablished as soon as possible. We also believe it is important that all parties support the peacekeeping force in carrying out its mandate.

"From the outset of this whole thing, the Israelis have said they did not intend to remain in southern Lebanon and assured the UN that they would comply with Resolution 425 in all its aspects. When Premier Menachem Begin was here in Washington he assured Secretary Vance that at the first possible Cabinet meeting, the Israeli Cabinet would address itself to the question of a final date for withdrawal and that is what the Israeli Cabinet has done."

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