Washington (Oct. 27)
Philip Habib, President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, is expected to return to the region in mid-November, although no date has been set for his departure, the State Department said today.
State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said the U.S. is “pleased” that the cease-fire that Habib helped establish across the Lebanese-Israeli border last July “is holding.” Fischer was commenting on the recent trip to the area by Morris Draper, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs.
Draper went to Cairo for the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Afterwards, he visited Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Israel. The Department had said earlier that Draper’s trip was paving the way for Habib to renew his mission.
NOTES SAUDI HELP IN LEBANON
Fischer indicated that Habib’s return to the area will depend on the results of a ministerial follow-up conference by a special committee of the Arab League set up to deal with the situation in Lebanon. He pointedly noted that it was through this committee that Saudi Arabia was “helpful and constructive” in pressing progress toward “political reconciliation” in Lebanon and an “end to armed confrontation.”
The Reagan Administration has been citing Saudi Arabia’s help in achieving a cease-fire in Lebanon as one of its arguments in favor of the $8.5 billion sale of AWACS and other sophisticated military equipment to the Arab kingdom.
The 61-year-old Habib, the former Under-secretary of State for Political Affairs, was called out of retirement by Reagan last May after Syria placed SAM-6 missiles in central Lebanon and Israel threatened to remove them by force. He was credited by Reagan with preventing a war from breaking out. In July, he was on his third trip to the region when the Israelis bombed Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Beirut. Reagan then ordered him to seek a ceasefire which he accomplished in late July. Since then, his mission has been extended to cover the entire Lebanese conflict.