State Department Urges Arab Countries to Find a Place for PLO

The State Department urged Arab countries today to help find a place for the Palestine Liberation Organization to go when it leaves Lebanon. “The issue of where the PLO fighters are to go remains unresolved, ” Department spokesman Dean Fischer said. “We are hopeful that the Arab community will find a way to help resolve the issue promptly.”

Fischer said the PLO has agreed “in principle” to leave west Beirut. He refused to confirm whether President Reagan has sent a letter to President Hafez Assad of Syria asking him to take in the 5,000-6,000 PLO men. At the same time, White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes also refused to confirm that Reagan sent a letter to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia asking Saudi help in finding a place for the PLO either in Syria or in other Arab countries.

Fischer said the Saudi and Syrian Foreign Ministers are scheduled to come to Washington but he still had no date for their arrival. The question of a PLO haven, however, is not the only unresolved problem in the negotiations now going on in Beirut. But Fischer refused to list the other problems. He and Speakes stressed that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib was conducting intensive negotiations today. Speakes said Habib was prepared to remain in Beirut as long as necessary.

Fischer refused to say whether the U.S. approved or disapproved of a reported Israeli plan to close down six Palestinian refugee camps near Tyre and Sidon in south Lebanon. All are in the 25 mile zone Israel wants cleared of terrorists. Fischer said the U.S. position is that the location of the refugee camps is “a matter for the Lebanese government and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) to determine.

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