TEL AVIV (Aug. 22)
United Nations Under Secretary Brian Urquhart apparently failed in his bid during talks with Israeli officials yesterday and today to have them use their influence to convince leaders of the Christian enclaves in south Lebanon to permit beleaguered Lebanese government troops to pass through the enclaves. Urquhart sought to explain to the Israelis that the Christian blocking of the passage to the Tibnin area in south Lebanon was creating increasing anxiety among the commanders of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and that this action was preventing the Lebanese government from establishing its authority in the south.
The Israeli officials said that while Israel recognizes the right of the Lebanese government to deploy its troops in south Lebanon, it cannot force the Christian militia leaders to accept this view. A Lebanese government battalion has been pinned down for three weeks near the town of Kaukaba. Israel and the Christian forces are both apprehensive that the Lebanese troops are at least partly controlled by Syria and would introduce Syrian influence south of the strategic Litani River.
Urquhart met with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, and Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan. The UN official was accompanied by Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, chief of the UN peacekeeping forces in the Mideast, and Gen. Emmanuel Erskine, UNIFIL commander. UNIFIL’s six-month mandate expires Sept. 18. After his talks here today, Urquhart left for Beirut, where he was to brief Lebanese Foreign Minister Fuad Butros on his talks in Israel and then go to Geneva to report to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
UNIFIL MANDATE EXTENSION FAVORED
Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said today that he favors the extension of the UNIFIL mandate next month. Speaking with Israel Radio following the committee meeting which discussed the situation in Lebanon, he said that the UN troops there “have not entirely lived up to our expectations, because unfortunately there are a significant number of terrorist units in the areas controlled by the UN troops.”
But, Arens warned, “should the UN troops withdraw, we will have a renewal of terrorist activity in the area and probably a much larger number of terrorists entering the area. And that wouldn’t be fair to anybody.” Arens also noted that he would favor a suggestion by Yigal Allon that UN peacekeeping troops be sent into Beirut itself, but said he does not know if the UN would agree. The committee also discussed arms supplies from the United States, which, Arens said, are arriving on schedule.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Syrian attacks against the Lebanese Christians are expected to be renewed shortly with the aim of destroying their military strength in south Lebanon. According to reports, Syrian forces are retrenching themselves for the renewed onslaught. At the same time, there are indications of a possible resumption of the civil war in Lebanon as relations between Christians and Moslems are deteriorating and terrorist and leftwing elements are exacerbating tensions and frictions between the two groups.