Haig: No Return to Status Quo

While not providing details, Secretary of State Alexander Haig said today that the United States would work to achieve withdrawal of all foreign “elements” from Lebanon in an effort to prevent a return to the status quo which existed there prior to Israel’s invasion last week.

At the same time, Haig and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens, who both appeared separately on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley” program, said it was still “too early” to predict a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

“I think we are going to work to achieve an adjustment and withdrawal of all foreign elements from Lebanon,” Haig said. He added that Lebanon has been “racked” by internal elements “not under the authority and control of the Lebanese government as well as a nation that has been occupied by Syrian forces for too long.”

According to Haig, President Reagan’s focus so far has been to establish a cessation of hostilities between fighting forces in Lebanon. But he pointed out that “no one would welcome a return to the status quo ante in Lebanon with all the instabilities we have experienced since 1976,” when that country was torn by civil war.

U.S. NOT CONSIDERING SENDING TROOPS

Haig said the United States has “not given serious thought” to the possibility of U.S. participation in a peacekeeping force in Lebanon. He said that the Administration would “look…carefully at what will be necessary to provide a stable situation in Lebanon to resolve the tension which brought about this disaster in the first place.”

The issue of U.S. troops to police parts of Lebanon also was discussed by Arens. While he said Israel has made no specific suggestions toward U.S. troops involvement, Arens noted that Israel and the U.S. are conducting consultations in an effort to “structure a situation” in Lebanon which would strengthen the authority of the Lebanese government.

“We are looking for the kind of situation that will not permit the PLO to return and fire against Israel again. I don’t know that that has to include U.S. troops,” Arens said. “I suppose this is something for the U.S. government to consider.”

Arens reiterated that the Israeli government will eventually move out of Lebanon. But he added that it is “a little early … to tell you exactly how long it will take us to create the kind of conditions that will permit us to withdraw.” Arens noted that it took 90 days before Israel withdrew its forces following the Litani operation in 1978.

AID FOR LEBANON

Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development (AID) announced that it had provided an initial grant of $200,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to victims of the conflict in Lebanon.

The U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Robert Dillon, has also provided $25,000 of aid funds to assist the relief effort. Another $5 million is pledged pursuant to President Reagan’s instructions, of which $3 million will be for Food for Peace provisions and $2 million will be provided by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The President has asked Congress to provide an additional $20 million through a supplemental appropriation.

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