WASHINGTON (Mar. 2)
Secretary of State Alexander. Haig said today that while the U.S. “understood” the concern of Israel over the re-arming of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon and increased terrorist acts, he urged Israel and all parties involved in Lebanon to exercise “restraint and moderation.”
Haig, answering questions before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, did not answer directly when asked if he thought Israel is planning to take military action in south Lebanon. He noted that Philip Habib, President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, who is now in Syria, is urging all sides not to violate “the letter or the spirit” of the cease-fire across the Israeli-Lebanese border which Habib helped establish last July.
“Actions on either side of the border between Lebanon and Israel which exacerbate tension are not welcome and must be avoided at all costs,” Haig told the Committee. He said it was “too early” to say if Habib had resolved “the contemporary tension” for which purpose he went on his fifth trip to the region since last May.
CITES UNSETTLING DEVELOPMENTS FOR ISRAEL
The Secretary noted that after the cease-fire in July, “both sides tended to improve their respective positions.” But he said he understood that it was “unsettling” for Israel to see the PLO being re-armed with artillery, sophisticated rocketry and what he called some “antiquated” tanks. Also unsettling for Israel, he said, was the resumption of some terrorist activity that came from Lebanon through Syria and Jordan into the West Bank.
Haig did not respond when Rep. Paul Findley (R. III.) said the only way to prevent Israel from crossing the Lebanese border is for President Reagan to personally warn Premier Menachem Begin against any such action.
Haig rejected the contention of Rep. William Broomfield (R. Mich.) the ranking minority member of the committee, that the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated. He said foreign policy should not be dated from the time the Reagan Administration took office little more than a year ago.
NO ALTERNATIVE TO CAMP DAVID
As he has frequently stressed in the past, Haig said the autonomy talks between Israel and Egypt are now going on and a Sinai peace-keeping force is ready to take over when Israel withdraws on April 25, although Egypt and Israel had been deadlocked over those issues when the Administration took office.
He said Egypt and Israel are now “talking about means of bridging differences” rather than just airing their differences themselves. Haig stressed that the U.S., as well as Israel and Egypt, is committed to the Camp David process because “there is no alternative process” that has a chance of bringing peace to the Middle East.
But, he noted, both Egypt and Israel are now going through a difficult time. He said that for Egypt, the death of President Anwar Sadat means that his successor, President Hosni Mubarak, has to assert his own policies. For Israel, this is a “traumatic” time, Haig said. He explained that this is not only because Israel is giving up Sinai but also has to Uproot Jewish settlers there.
On other matters, Haig repeated the Reagan Administration’s contention that it does not have a formal request from Jordan for F-16 jet fighters or Hawk mobile air defense systems. He suggested that there may not even be a formal request. How–ever, he noted that King Hussein of Jordan, in a television appearance last Sunday, seemed to imply that Jordan is about to make its request for arms to the U.S.
Haig said the U.S. understood why Israel would be concerned by arms requests from Arab countries that do not recognize Israel and are still in a state of war with it. But, he said, it is not in the interests of the U.S. or of Israel “to have moderate Arabs receive arms from the Soviet Union.”
He explained that the Soviet SAM-8 mobile antiaircraft missiles which Hussein has bought are better than similar U.S. weapons and that if Jordan buys weapons from the Soviets, there will be no American influence as to the use of those weapons.
SAUDI DENIES AGREEMENT ON AWACS
Meanwhile, in a related Mideast development, Defense Minister Prince Sultan Ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia denied signing any agreement on conditions covering the manning and use of five AWACS aircraft it bought from the U.S.
The London-based daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsar, reported yesterday that the prince dismissed the reported signing as “lies which are circulated by certain news agencies under pressure from Zionist elements.” He was commenting on reports from Washington that he had signed an agreement during a trip to Saudi Arabia by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger last month.
In another development, more than 100 soldiers of Fort Bragg’s 1st Corps Support Command left North Carolina yesterday for Egypt to help oversee Israel’s return of the Sinai to Egypt. Another 800 Americans, from the 82nd Airborne Division, will join the group later. The soldiers will become part of the multinational peacekeeping force in Sinai.