Washington (Mar. 5)
–Maj. Saad Haddad, commander of the Christian militia in southern Lebanon, was accused by the State Department today of threatening to shell the Lebanese coastal town of Sidon “if the Lebanese government does not pay approximately $5 million to his force.” State Department spokesman William Dyess said that “This action would be considered criminal.”
He said shelling by Haddad’s forces have left three dead and 21 wounded and that one shell hit a school injuring nine children. Responding to questions by reporters, he emphasized that he was not suggesting that “Israel had anything to do with it.” Israel has supported Haddad’s Christian group.
Asked what the sources of his information about Haddad’s threat were, the State Department spokesman said it came from press reports and from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Later, he told reporters that the Lebanese government “confirmed the press reports to us.” He said he did not know if the government had made a public statement or announcement.
Asked by reporters if Haddad is a “terrorist,” Dyess said, “It’s awfully close, particularly if he comes out with his threat to shell the city.” Asked if the State Department would take any action beyond its statement, he replied that that was all he was prepared to do.
A reporter stated that it was a basic assumption that U.S. equipment was supplied to Haddad through Israel, to which Dyess replied, “I was not making my statement with that assumption in mind. I have no information to enlighten you about the source of the weapons supply.” Asked if Israel was involved in the incident, he said, “I don’t mean to suggest or imply that. I wouldn’t suggest Israel had anything to do with it.” (By Joseph Polakoff)