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U.S. Asks Israeli Explanation

The United States has asked Israel for an official explanation of its use of American-made cluster bombs in the war in Lebanon, the State Department disclosed today. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed for the first time yesterday that the anti-personnel weapons had been used but said they were employed against military targets, not civilians.

State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said “Our Embassy in Tel Aviv today requested an official explanation from Israel. We will not have anything else to say until that (explanation) is received.” He expressed confidence that Israel will respond to the U.S. as soon as its report on the matter is completed.

Fischer announced meanwhile that Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who resigned last Friday, will remain on duty throughout most of this week. He said a decision will be made by Haig, his successor, Secretary of State-designate George Shultz and President Reagan as to when “an orderly transition can be accomplished.” Shultz met today with the National Security Council and with officials at the State Department. The Middle East situation was discussed, Fischer said.

With respect to the situation in Beirut, Fischer reiterated his statement of last week that “We have no information to suggest that the Israelis have departed from their previous assurances that they do not intend to capture or occupy Beirut.” He said he had no confirmation of a Jerusalem radio report that five ships have left Alexandria for Beirut to evacuate Palestinian forces there to Egypt.

U.S. VETO EXPLAINED

Fischer commented at length on the U.S. veto last Friday of a United Nations Security Council resolution, proposed by France, calling on Israel to withdraw its forces 10 kilometers from the periphery of Beirut and on all armed elements in Beirut to respect the exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon. He said the U.S. had hoped that the Security Council would have added a series of Lebanese amendments to the resolution which would have served as the basis of American policy toward the Lebanese crisis.

He said these had called for the restoration of Lebanon’s authority and sovereignty throughout the country and the restoration of Lebanon’s territorial integrity. “In that context, our goals with respect to the situation in west Beirut are the same as the goals of the government of Lebanon,” Fischer said.

He explained that “They were embodied in the proposed Lebanese amendments …These goals include the deployment of the Lebanese army in and around Beirut and an end to the armed Palestinian presence in and around Beirut, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area around Beirut and the redeployment of all of the forces in the Beirut area.”

SAUDI THREATS DENIED

Fischer added that “The U.S. has confirmation that the position at the Lebanese government at the Arab League meeting in Tunis was consistent with the proposed Lebanese amendments to the resolution.” He said he was unaware of any response by the Israeli government to these goals. He also said the U.S. has made no specific public statement as to whether the Palestine Liberation Organization is included in the term “all foreign forces” when applied to Lebanon.

Fischer denied a report in the Sunday Times of London yesterday that Saudi Arabia had threatened an oil embargo and financial and diplomatic sanctions against the U.S. if Washington failed to prevail on Israel to withdraw its forces surrounding Beirut. “No threats were made or issued by the government of Saudi Arabia,” Fischer said.

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