Washington (Jul. 26)
The Reagan Administration has indicated that it will not decide whether it will resume deliveries of F-16s to Israel until it can determine if the “cessation of hostilities” across the Israeli-Lebanon border announced Friday holds.
“We are going to be watching the situation very carefully in the hours, days, and perhaps weeks ahead,” Secretary of State Alexander Haig said in an interview on CBS-TV “Morning News” program Friday.
Haig said the review of whether Israel violated its arms agreement with the United States in the Israli raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor has been largely completed. He said that President Reagan decided to withhold deliveries of F-16s last week because he concluded that in the “environment” existing in Lebanon it would have been “inappropriate for the President to go ahead and send that kind of lethal equipment into Israel.”
Reagan had been expected to give the go ahead on July 17 to the shipment of four F-16s suspended after the Israeli raid on Iraq June 7 as well as six more F-16s scheduled to go to Israel this month. But that day was also when Israel struck against terrorist headquarters in Beirut, causing many civilian casualties, and the Administration decided to suspend shipment indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the White House said that Reagan sent a telegram to his special envoy, Philip Habib, expressing the President’s “deep appreciation,” for Habib’s achievement in reaching an end to the violence across the Israel -Lebanon border. Reagan sent Habib to Jerusalem just hours after Israel’s bombing of Beirut.
At the State Department, it was stressed that the “cessation of hostilities” agreement did not mean that Israel or the U.S. had abondoned their refusal to deal directly with the Palestinian Liberation Organiza-
tion. State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said that Israel agreed to terms proposed to it by Habib. He refused to given any details of the agreement.
Fischer stressed that the PLO responded to terms from various other parties. He refused to name all of them but said as Haig did that they included Saudi Arabia. Habib was in Saudi Arabia for the last two days prior to the cease-fire agreement. The PLO, in announcing that it had agreed to stop firing into Israel, said it accepted the request of the United Nations, particularly its commander in Lebanon, William Callaghan.
Haig indicated that Habib will now turn his attention to the crisis which he had been dealing with earlier — that of easing tension caused by Syria’s placing of SAM-6 anti-aircraft in Lebanon and Israel’s threat to remove them by force. Haig also said that Habib’s efforts would be expanded to cover all the problems in Lebanon. “I think all these problems internally in Lebanon are aspects of the peace efforts that Ambassador Habib is going to deal with and has indeed been dealing with,” Haig said.
Fischer explained later that Habib will be working toward the long-term U.S. goal of seeing Lebanese authority return to all of Lebanon. He said the Administration will also be moving now to work on the Camp David process, including talks on autonomy for the Palestinian people.
But he said it has not been decided whether Habib will be the negotiator on the Mideast peace process since the Administration may not necessarily want “a Linowitz-type” one-man negotiator for the Mideast peace process. Sol Linowitz was President Carter’s special envoy on Mideast negotiations.
U.S. NOT REVIEWING ARMS VIOLATION IN BEIRUT RAID
Haig, in his television interview, turned away suggestions that the Administration review whether Israel violated its arms agreement with the U.S. by using American-made weapons in its strikes against terrorist bases in Lebanon.
“There are two sides to this situation,” he said. “There are rockets, Katyusha and 130-millimeter artillery rounds that have been falling in Israel with equally grave consequences to innocent non-combattants and these are the mutually, escalating conditions that leads to conflict in the first instance. Now, our concerns are strictly involved in trying to return to a state of moderation, status quo ante, and to get on with the process which is vitally important to all the parties — and that is the return to peace.”