Washington (Apr. 15)
— The State Department denied today that U.S. policy in Lebanon was aimed at getting the Syrian army to withdraw from that war-torn country. At the same time, however, Department spokesman Dean Fischer stressed that the U.S. wanted the Lebanese army to eventually take over “security functions” in the entire country.
This apparent contradiction came after Fischer refused to comment on a call by Sen. Edward Kennedy
(D. Mass.) Monday for the Reagan Administration to press for the withdrawal of Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces from Lebanon. Nevertheless, when Fischer was asked if U.S. policy is seeking to have the Syrians withdraw, he replied, “No, I wouldn’t characterize it in that way.”
Fischer explained that “because the situation in Lebanon is so complex, what we want is maximum restraint on all parties” in order to end the violence and bring about a political solution. He said U.S. policy is aimed at strengthening the central government of Lebanon under President Elias Sarkis “throughout the country” and “part of that goal is working toward having the Lebanese armed forces assume security functions throughout the country.”
Asked it that didn’t mean that the Lebanese army would be taking over security functions from the Syrian army, Fischer said he preferred to state it in the way that he had.