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Haig Says Habib to Remain in the Mideast As Long As He Feels He Can Help Contribute to the Situation

Secretary of State Alexander Haig said today that it was too early to judge whether Philip Habib’s mission to the Middle East was achieving results but that he would remain in the region “as long as he felt he could make a constructive contribution to the situation.” He described the situation as “still serious and dangerous.”

Habib, a veteran career diplomat, was called out of retirement by President Reagan to visit the Middle East as his special representative in an effort to defuse the crisis between Israel and Syria over the anti-aircraft missiles Syria has placed in Lebanon.

Habib was in Beirut and Damascus over the weekend and arrived in Israel yesterday. He met twice with Premier Menachem Begin shortly after his arrival and continued his meetings with Israeli officials today. According to reports from Jerusalem, he decided to stay at least one more day for an additional round of talks.

Haig, who spoke to reporters following a closed door meeting with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “We are very hopeful we can find some basis which will permit a return to normalcy and a relieving of the tensions which are still serious and dangerous.” He said there has been “a thickening” of the SAM-6 missiles in Lebanon and “military posturing on both sides, “meaning Israel and Syria. Israel has threatened to destroy the missiles by air attack if they are not removed.