JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
Two U.S. Senators said today they accepted Premier Menachem Begin’s assurances that Israel will give U.S. special envoy Philip Habib more time to negotiate an agreement leading to the departure of all Palestine Liberation Organization forces from west Beirut.
Sens. Christopher Dodd (D. Conn.) and Carl Levin (D. Mich.) told reporters after a meeting with Begin that the Premier continued to be optimistic that Habib’s efforts will succeed, although time is running out.
“Mr. Begin wants to give Philip Habib every opportunity possible and all the time he needs to secure a peaceful withdrawal,” Dodd said, adding, “there is no ultimatum.” Israeli newspapers reported today that Israel has set next Sunday as the deadline for negotiations.
The two American lawmakers, on a fact-finding mission with respect to the war in Lebanon, confirmed that Begin was adamant against the PLO retaining a political office in Beirut or a token military presence within the Lebanese army after the departure of its main body from Lebanon. Dodd is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Levin a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Political sources here said, meanwhile, that because of the complexity of the negotiations being conducted by Habib, a political agreement was not certain to be reached. In that connection they warned the PLO to cease fire in Beirut. Otherwise, the Israel army would react with “the strongest measures, ” they said.