WASHINGTON (Jul. 18)
George Shultz spent his first full day as Secretary of State yesterday in uninterrupted conferences on the Middle East situation with top State Department officials and experts on the region, Including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Earlier, Shultz met for a half hour with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens, the first envoy summoned to the State Department after the new Secretary of State was sworn in Friday. A short while later he met with the Egyptian Ambassador, Ashraf Ghorbal.
State Department sources indicated that Shultz was losing no time tackling Middle East problems because he perceived opportunities arising from the complexities of rapidly unfolding events in that region. The sources hinted that Shultz did not want to become bogged down in the stalemate over the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization from west Beirut.
He is expected to press for an Arab solution to the problem of a haven for the 5,000-6,000 PLO fighters when he meets here Tuesday with the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia and Syria, Prince Saud al-Faisal and Abdel Halim Khaddam respectively. The refusal of Syria to admit the PLO rank-and-file to its territory was reportedly cited by U.S. special envoy Philip Habib in Beirut as the chief obstacle in the way of a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Lebanon.
BRAINSTORMING WITH EXPERTS
Shultz’s summoning of Kissinger, Secretary of State in the Nixon-Ford Administrations, whose strenuous shuttle diplomacy was credited with breaking the Israeli-Egyptian stalemate after the Yom Kippur War, was viewed in some circles as possibly heralding a new mission for Kissinger in the Middle East.
Other prominent Americans with experience in the Middle East also may be under consideration for special diplomatic assignments. In addition to Kissinger, others who participated in what was described as a day-long “brainstorming” session with Shultz were Irving Shapira, the retired chairman of the E.I.DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Delaware, and Lawrence Silberman, a San Francisco banker. Both are close personal friends of the new Secretary of State.
Shultz visited Israel and other Middle East countries with Shapiro several years ago. Silberman served with Shultz when the latter was Secretary of Labor in the Nixon Administration and was later U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia.
According to State Department sources, other participants in the session with Shultz included Deputy Secretary of State Walter Stoessel; Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Lawrence Eagleburger; Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs; Paul Wolfitz, the State Department Director of Policy and Planning; Robert McFarlane deputy director of the National Security Council; Richard Fairbanks, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s special assistant for the Middle East; and Robert Ames, the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief specialist on Middle Eastern affairs.
The array of diplomatic talent and Middle East specialists gathered by Shultz within hours of his assuming office indicated that the new Secretary of State is determined to hammer out a strong, coherent Middle East policy without delay and, in the short run, overt further bloodshed around west Beirut where the PLO remnant is under siege by Israeli forces.
SPECULATION ABOUT KISSINGER
The presence of Kissinger aroused most speculation in as much as the former Secretary, with a record of successful negotiations in the Middle East, had been little used during Haig’s tenure at the State Department. Only last week Kissinger publicly opposed the dispatch of U.S. troops to Lebanon to oversee the departure of the PLO, an offer “in principle” made by President Reagan earlier this month. The offer was contingent on several conditions, none of which has been met.
Reagan, meanwhile, has reportedly sent letters to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, President Hafaz Assad of Syria and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt seeking their active help in effecting the peaceful departure of the PLO from west Beirut to an acceptable haven.
CONTINUITY OF SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
Whatever new Mideast policy may emerge from Shultz’s consultations remained a matter of speculation today. Israeli sources here said the fact that Ambassador Arens was the first foreign diplomat to see the new Secretary of State indicated Shultz’s appreciation of Israel’s security problems. According to the source, Shultz wanted to reassure Arens of the continuity of the Reagan Administration’s support for Israel.
But Shultz went on record, during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, as being convinced that the aspirations of the Palestinian people must be addressed as a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East and that the U.S. must strengthen its ties with friendly Arab states.
He made it clear that he opposed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its ouster of elected Palestinian mayors in those territories. Shultz also stressed that the U.S. would not soften its conditions for recognition of the PLO but indicated that the PLO might be acceptable once it met those conditions and pursued its aims through diplomacy instead of terrorist tactics.
VIOLATIONS OF ARMS AGREEMENT CLAIMED
The Reagan Administration officially notified Congress that Israel may have violated its agreement with the U.S. by using American-made weapons in Lebanon. State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said the letter was sent to Congress Friday morning at which time the U.S. had received no formal reply from Israel to its inquiries on the subject. But the White House said yesterday that a reply from Israel about its use of cluster bombs in Lebanon had been received late Friday and was, under review. The White House spokesman refused to disclose the contents of the Israeli reply.
BAR SCHEDULED SHIPMENT OF ARMS
At the same time, a Pentagon official said preliminary steps had been taken to bar a scheduled shipment of artillery shells, similar to cluster bombs, that was to have been delivered to Israel Monday. Cluster bombs are a devastating anti-personnel weapon and the U.S. has been studying reports that the Israelis used them in Lebanon against civilians. Israel admited using the weapons but insisted they were deployed only against military targets.
The delay in sending the latest shipment was acknowledged by the Pentagon to be a signal of U.S. displeasure over their use. At the same time, the Administration appeared anxious to avoid a clash with Premier Menachem Begin’s government over the matter while negotiations over west Beirut hang in the balance.
Fischer said the letter of notification to Congress was “classified” and “We feel it would not have been prudent at this particularly delicate stage of negotiations (in Lebanon) to make it public.” He would not say whether the letter contained any recommendations but noted that all weapons now in the “pipeline” to Israel were being delivered.