NEW YORK (Jun. 22)
Calling Israel’s invasion of Lebanon “long overdue,” a representative of the Lebanese Christian community appealed today for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from his country and urged that a multinational force be established that would include the United States.
Dory Chamoun, Secretary General of the National Liberal Party of Lebanon and the son of former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, spoke at a press conference he held here this morning.
“For most of us Lebanese, the Israeli invasion has been long overdue. Having failed politically and diplomatically to rid Lebanon of Syrian and Palestinian occupation, we became more and more convinced that Lebanon could only be freed by military action,” Chamoun said. He added that because of PLO behavior in Lebanon and its attacks across the border with Israel, “we knew that there would come a time when Israel would have to perform that surgical operation which we had been unable to accomplish.”
Chamoun, whose party has backed the leadership of Major Saad Haddad in that country’s southern enclave, noted that Lebanese Christians had warned Palestinian and Arab leaders that the PLO behavior in his country would ultimately evoke an Israeli response. He said that “warnings also went to the Western world which was at one time prepared to see Lebanon disappear under the Palestinian and Syrian boot, not realizing that in so doing they were in reality making of Lebanon a gift to “the Soviet Union.”
AWAITING FINAL OUTCOME
But he stressed that the outcome of Israel’s action was a greater source of worry to his party than the invasion itself. “Will this finally mean freedom, security and the end of a nightmare,” he asked, “or will U.S. pressure once again force a solution of compromise which will satisfy no one and just perpetuate the miseries of the inhabitants of that region?”
In response to a question, Chamoun offered a series of steps to bring an end to the fighting and the restoration of authority to the Lebanese Army and Government. He called for a “complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon,” beginning with the Palestinians, who would be followed by Syria’s forces and finally by those of Israel. Chamoun also appealed for the establishment of a multinational force “to help the Lebanese Army control the situation in Lebanon.” Calling American participation essential, he said “The United States cannot remain outside and just looking over the fence.” Also essential for a lasting solution, Chamoun said, is the holding of free presidential elections and the receipt of substantial foreign political and economic aid.
Figures received from his party last night put the number of civilians killed since the Israeli invasion at about 2,500 — for below the figures which have been offered by the Lebanese government and the International Red Cross. He estimated the number of people made homeless at 100,000.
But Chamoun’s comments were not entirely in harmony with Israel’s public position. He said that he continued to call the Israeli action an “invasion,” because “from my point of view, as a Lebanese, my country is being invaded.” Premier Menachem Begin, said yesterday in Washington that “invasion” was a misnomer, since Israel had no interest in conquering Lebanese territory.