WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
The Reagan Administration is hopeful that President Reagan’s meeting tomorrow with Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and Abdel Halim Khaddam, the Foreign Minister of Syria, will result in finding a solution to the problem of a haven for some 6,000 Palestine Liberation Organization men in west Beirut.
The two foreign ministers, sent here by the Arab League, were scheduled to meet with Secretary of State George Shultz later this afternoon. They will also meet separately with the new Secretary to discuss bilateral relations, State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said today.
Reagan has put his personal prestige on the line in an effort to find a host country for the PLO, the only apparent obstacle now to their departure from west Beirut. Last week, the President wrote President Hafez Assad of Syria asking him to admit the PLO men and to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, asking him to use his influence to help find a place for the PLO. The Administration last week publicly urged the “Arab community” to “find a way to help resolve the issue promptly.”
Israeli officials over the weekend expressed impatience with the ongoing negotiations and implied a threat to move into west Beirut to remove the PLO by force. Fischer refused to comment on this but said, “We have certainly expressed repeatedly that we feel it is a matter of great urgency that a solution should be found as soon as possible.” But Fischer made it clear that the U.S. will not accept a demand from PLO chief Yasir Arafat for direct talks with the U.S. as a condition for the PLO’s departure from west Beirut.
“Our policy remains unchanged,” the State Department spokesman said, “By that I mean we will not discuss or meet with the PLO until the PLO recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts” United Nations Security Council resolution 242 and 338.
Fischer also stressed that Khaled Al-Hassan, a PLO official from Damascus reportedly accompanied Foreign Minister Khaddam to the U.S. will not join him in the meeting with Shultz today. “He (Al-Hasson) will not meet with any U.S. officials,” Fischer said.
Fischer said that although former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was one of three private citizens who joined State Department officials in a meeting on the Middle East with Shultz, Saturday, no decision has been made to send Kissinger or anyone else on a special mission to the region. He said that special envoy, Philip Habib, who is conducting negotiations with Lebanese officials in Beirut today, will not be replaced.
On another matter, Fischer said that although more food has been allowed into west Beirut through Israeli roadblocks in the last few days, the “situation is grim.” He said the U.S. has been constantly discussing this situation with the Israeli’s and “they understand our position.”