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Administration Facing Imminent Decision on Lifting F-16 Suspension

Indications today are that the Reagan Administration will have to make a decision by the middle of this month on whether or not to lift its suspension of the shipment of four F-16 jet fighters to Israel.

State Department sources said this is because six more F-16s are scheduled to be shipped to Israel on July 17. It is conceivable that all 10 planes might be sent at that time. Meanwhile, delivery of other arms scheduled for shipment to Israel began today in compliance with President Reagan’s promise that the embargo applies only to the four F-16s.

State Deportment spokesman Dean Fischer stressed today that the “review” being conducted by the Administration and Congress on whether Israel violated the arms agreement with the United States when it used American weapons to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor June 7 affected only the four F-16s.

He said that no decision had been mode on the six F-16s due to be delivered in July. He said all arms shipped abroad must technically be approved by the Administration just before the scheduled date of shipment. He said the six planes will be shipped “barring some future decision” not to but stressed that this is “not part of the review process.” He urged reporters not to speculate on anything until the review is completed.

HABIB WILL RETURN TO MIDEAST NEXT WEEK

Fischer said that special envoy Philip Habib will return to the Middle East, probably next week. The spokesman said Habib could not be credited with the decision by the Lebanese Christian militia to turn over their patrols in Zahle to 600 Lebanese policemen. He said the decision was due to an effort by Arab foreign ministers.

Fischer said however that the U.S. welcomes the move because it “contributes to a defusing of tension.” But he said that the U.S. could not confirm reports that the Syrians have moved their troops away from Zahle, ending a 91-day siege of the Christian village or that the Syrians have begun moving some of their SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles out of Lebanon.

The State Department spokesman declined to comment on the results of the Knesset elections in Israel yesterday since the outcome was not “clear.” He stressed that the U.S. has “no favorite” between Premier Menachem Begin of the governing Likud Party and Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Alignment. He said the continuation of the peace efforts in the Middle East would not depend upon which of them forms the next Israeli government.

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