Washington (May. 31)
Special envoy Philip Habib, after meeting for 45 minutes Friday with President Reagan to report on his mission to cool the crisis over Lebanon, urged all parties in the area to “behave with restraint.” While Habib, who has said he will return to the Middle East next week, did not single out any one country, it was apparent that he was aiming at the involvement of Libyan troops in Lebanon as much as at the Israeli attacks on Palestinian terrorist bases which have occurred in the last two days.
A State Department spokesman, David Passage, said later that any direct involvement by Libya in Lebanon “is strongly deplored” by the United States. While Passage would not directly confirm that Libyan troops are in Lebanon, he said that “we do not have any reason to doubt reports” that the Libyans are there. He said about 150 Libyan troops are believed to be in Lebanon, most of them involved with the missile batteries. It was these batteries that were attacked by the Israel Air Force
REAGAN, HABIB CLAIM SUCCESS
Meanwhile, both Reagan and Habib called the mission a success, noting that the area had been on the verge of war when the President summoned the veteran diplomat out of retirement three weeks ago. “The guns were all cocked and ready to go,” the President said just before his meeting with Habib in the Oval office in the White House. “So, I think its been a tremendously successful, almost miraculous, thing so far, that he has done.”
After he met with the President, Habib noted that he had been instructed “to defuse the tensions and to create an atmosphere through which, hopefully, one could control what appeared to be a course which was going to lead to major hostilities. I am pleased to say that we have been able, through our efforts over the last few weeks, to at least keep what threatened from breaking out,” he said.
Habib told reporters that the “Saudis are being helpful and constructive” in the efforts to find a peaceful solution. When asked about the Soviet role, he replied, “I would not characterize what they’ve said as being helpful.” Passage aid that a Tass article calling the Habib mission a failure was “mischievous.”
Habib, who made several visits to Beirut, Damascus and Jerusalem, along with a side trip to Riyadh, said it was “clear” to him “as I went from capital to capital, that the leaders were prepared to listen to us and were prepared to have us play the role of peacemaker.” Passage confirmed that all the leaders wanted a peaceful resolution to the crisis and that “no one gave Habib any ultimatum or deadline.”