WASHINGTON (Jun. 15)
The State Department said today that the U.S. is “very concerned about reports of continued fighting and troop movements around Beirut in spite of cease-fire declarations of the various parties.”
But Department spokesman Dean Fischer said, in that connection, “We have been assured that Israel has no intention of occupying Beirut and we anticipate that Israeli forces will not take that step. We trust that none of the parties will do anything to contravene their stated intentions to observe the cease fire.”
Questioned about reports that the Israelis might want to improve their positions around Beirut and whether such troop movements would be considered a violation of the cease-fire, Fischer said, he could not reply explicitly. “I wouldn’t disclose the content of any diplomatic discussions the U.S. has had with Israel,” he said. Asked about the legality of Israel’s use of American-made weapons in Lebanon, Fischer said, “We are looking into that.”
The State Department spokesman was asked about a possible delay in the required notification to Congress of the Administration’s proposed sale of 75 more F-16 jet fighters to Israel. Fischer replied, “My understanding from the White House is that the President will make a determination about the timing of the notification. It is customary for the President to make such a determination.”
Informal notice was given Congress of the proposed sale 21 days ago. The normal process is that 20 days later, formal letters of notification are sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But as of yesterday, no such letters had been sent.
Fischer would not say whether President Reagan is holding up the sale. He said he had no response to the message sent to Secretary of State Alexander Haig over the weekend by Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, that it would not be timely now to go forward with the sale of F-16s to Israel.
NO NEW YORK MEETING
With respect to Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s visit to the U.S., Fischer said no meeting has been scheduled between Haig and Begin in New York where the Israeli Premier will address the United Nations Disarmament Conference Friday. According to the White House, no time has been set for Reagan’s luncheon meeting with Begin in Washington next Monday.
Asked about the extension of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the mandate of which expires this week, or the establishment of some other multinational force for Lebanon, Fischer said “The U.S. has been a supporter of UNIFIL. We feel UNIFIL has played an important role in maintaining the fragile cease-fire on the Israel-Lebanon border over the past four years.” But “given current uncertainties, we believe it is prudent to expand UNIFIL when its mandate comes up before the Security Council this week,” Fischer said. “Its mandate must not be allowed to lapse at this critical juncture.”
He added that, “looking beyond such an extension, we believe that a peace-keeping arrangement will be a necessary ingredient in bringing about an Israeli withdrawal in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 508 and 509.” Fischer said he was “sure we are in the process” of negotiating with other nations in the Security Council on this point. He said he did not know if the Soviet Union favored extension of UNIFIL.
Asked if the U.S. was satisfied that UNIFIL would be the only peace-keeping force in Lebanon, Fischer said “There are a number of options under consideration” and it is “premature to speculate” as to whether the U.S. would send troops to an enlarged UNIFIL force.