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State Department Equivocating on a UN Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon to Maintain the Truce

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– The State Department indicated today that it was not advocating a United Nations peacekeeping force to maintain the truce throughout Lebanon but that it did consider it a possibility. Dean Fischer, the Department’s new spokesman, said that the French proposal for a UN peacekeeping force in areas outside of south Lebanon was just “an option.”

He said it was “nothing more than that and we are not necessarily advocating that. ” He stressed that a UN force would be an option “only if the parties in the region are unable or unwilling to deal with the problem themselves.”

Secretary of State Alexander Haig had appeared to support the idea of a UN peacekeeping force in all of Lebanon when he met French leaders in Paris last week. But all Fischer would say today was that Haig had discussed the proposals with the French officials. He said the U.S. believes there is a role in Lebanon for the UN and the Security Council and was now having discussions at the UN in New York on this matter.

Fischer avoided a question about reports from Jerusalem that Israel was supplying arms to the Christians fighting Syrian forces in central Lebanon. He also declined to comment when asked if the U.S. knows what quantities of weapons the Soviet Union was supplying to the Syrians and the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon. He stressed that U.S. policy in Lebanon is to support and strengthen the legitimate government in Beirut “in every way we can.”

With respect to another matter, Fischer said he could not say when the Reagan Administration would officially inform Congress of its proposal to sell Saudi Arabia air-to-air missiles and extra fuel tanks

for its 62 F-15 jet fighters and AWACS aerial surveillance aircraft that the Saudis have requested. “When it’s time to make an announcement we will make it, ” he said. The proposed sales have encountered considerable opposition in Congress.

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