Washington (Jul. 6)
Special U.S. envoy Philip Habib met for 70 minutes with President Reagan at lunch today and left the White House without giving any indication of when he might return to the Middle East.
Habib, who ducked the press by leaving by a side door, was expected to return to the region this week. It would be his third trip there on his mission, which began in May, to ease the tensions created by Syria’s placement of SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles in Lebanon and Israel’s threat to destroy them. According to a White House spokesman, Reagan renewed his appreciation for Habib’s efforts in the Mideast.
Habib was recalled to Washington late last month, presumably because the Administration did not want him to be in the region during Israel’s elections, held June 30. His meeting with Reagan today followed the adjournment of a special Arab League committee meeting convened in Beirut to further peacemaking efforts in Lebanon. The committee has scheduled another round of meetings to begin there on July 25.
According to reports from Beirut, the tension in that country was eased somewhat last week when Christian Phalangist militiamen left the besieged city of Zahle and were replaced by Lebanese army regulars. But Syrian forces still control the roads to Zahle and their missiles have not been removed from the Beka valley.
According to one report, the Arab League committee will attempt to extract a statement from the Phalangists renouncing all ties with Israel as a precondition to any peaceful settlement of Lebanon’s six year-old civil war. Israel has been supplying weapons to both the Phalangists and the Christian militia headed by Maj. Saad Haddad in south Lebanon.