Washington (Jul. 16)
The State Department rejected today suggestions that the continued violence across the Israeli-Lebanon border would affect the Reagan Administration’s decision whether or not to resume the delivery of F-16 warplanes to Israel.
The decision to deliver the aircraft depends on the outcome of the Administration’s “review” of whether Israel violated its arms agreement with the U.S. by using American planes in its attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor last month, Deputy State Department spokesman Alan Romburg reiterated today.
As late as early afternoon, Romburg could give no idea of when the decision on delivery would be announced, although he said it would be today or tomorrow as promised. Most observers here expect the Administration to announce that all 10 F-16s — the four embargoed after the Iraqi raid and six scheduled for delivery tomorrow — would go to Israel.
The Washington Star said in a story published today that the decision to deliver all 10 planes has already been made. The paper said it was decided when Secretary of State Alexander Haig and State Department Counsellor Robert McFarlane met last night with White House Counsellor Edward Meese III and other top White House aides.
McFarlane was briefing Congressional committees today on his talks in Israel earlier this week about the use of American-supplied weapons for defense purposes under the U.S.-Israeli arms agreement.
Meanwhile, Romburg said the U.S. expressed “regret” over the continued violence across the Israeli-Lebanon border, although he stressed he was not making a judgement on any of the actions. He repeated the U.S. position that “violence begets violence” and that “continued violence solves nothing.”
Romburg said the escalation of violence hampers diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving Lebanon’s problems. But he refused to discuss the plans of U.S. special envoy Philip Habib who is in the Middle East to help solve those problems. Habib has been in Saudi Arabia since Monday.