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Report U.S. Package Deal to Resolve Lebanon Crisis Includes Curtailment of Israeli Air Flights

U.S. special envoy Philip Habib left for Damascus today, reportedly with a proposed American package to resolve the crisis between Israel and Syria. The Prime Minister’s Office denied this morning that the U.S. proposals include a limitation of Israeli aerial activity over Lebanon. But highly placed Israeli sources, who refused to be identified, said the American package does indeed call for a curtailment of certain flights. (See related story from Washington.)

The sources distinguished between intelligence-gathering reconnaissance flights that presumably would be allowed to continue and “operational” flights such as those on April 28 when Israel aircraft shot down two Syrian helicopters operating around the Christian stronghold of Zahle.

Habib arrived in Israel Monday after meetings in Beirut and Damascus. He spent the last two days in intensive discussions with Israeli leaders. His mission is to defuse the crisis precipitated by Syria’s deployment of SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles in Lebanon’s Beka valley and Israel’s threat to destroy them by air attack unless they are removed.

Habib conferred with Premier Menachem Begin yesterday and met this morning with Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, before leaving for Damascus. Peres said later that American diplomatic efforts should be given time to succeed.

Habib apparently has embarked on shuttle diplomacy to promote the American proposals. His decision to remain in the area and the fact that concrete proposals are now on the table contributed toward lessening the tension here today. Israeli circles feel that there has been a respite of at least a few days since no party is likely to take overt action while the American envoy is in the area.

REPORTED ELEMENTS IN THE PACKAGE

But neither Israel nor Syria has shown any sign of readiness to accept the American proposals and the situation is still fraught with danger. There was no official disclosure of the contents of the American package. But Israeli sources said it contained the following elements:

Restoration of the “status quo ante” in Lebanon as it existed before April 2 when the Syrian forces began their encirclement of Zahle; Christian Phalangist units based in Beirut would cease their thrust toward Zahle and Lebanese army regulars would take control of that city, populated by Greek Orthodox Christians; the Syrians would withdraw their units from strongpoints they captured in the Sannine mountain range overlooking Zahle and the Lebanese coastal plain; Israel would reduce its aerial activity over Lebanon; Syria, some time later, would quietly withdraw its anti-aircraft missiles from Lebanon.

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