Ottawa (Jul. 20)
President Reagan, attending the Western nations’ economic summit conference here, is expected to decide within the next 24 hours whether or not to resume delivery of F-16 fighter aircraft to Israel. He told reporters he would take time out to discuss the matter with his advisors later today, presumably including Secretary of State Alexander Haig who is in Ottawa with the President.
Although the conference agenda deals primarily with economic issues, the rapidly escalating warfare across the Israeli-Lebanese border has put the Middle East crisis in the forefront of other matters. Reagan told reporters today that his immediate goal is to help effect a cease-fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces in Lebanon. The Foreign Ministers of the other nations attending the conference agreed that this was the most urgent need of the moment.
Reagan indicated that he pinned his hopes on the efforts of U.S. special envoy Philip Habib who is presently in Israel. Habib conferred with Premier Menachem Begin twice yesterday and reportedly called for an immediate cease-fire. The Israeli Cabinet is expected to convene in special session tomorrow to decide.
Briefing reporters on his arrival here last night, Haig conceded that the deteriorating situation in the Middle East has increased tensions there and is a cause for worry. But, in an appearance earlier yesterday on the ABC-TV “Issues and Answers” program, Haig seemed optimistic that the situation in Lebanon would be resolved peacefully. He, too, referred to Habib’s presence in the region and noted that the American diplomat had succeeded in moderating the earlier crisis over Syria’s deployment of SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles in Lebanon.