WASHINGTON (Aug. 4)
President Reagan sent a “personal message” today to Israeli Premier Menachem Begin expressing “the absolute necessity of re-establishing and maintaining a strict cease-fire in place” in order to successfully conclude the negotiations aimed at removing the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists from Lebanon.
At the same time, the President, through other countries, has urged the PLO to end its stalling over departing from west Beirut.
The White House deputy press spokesman, Larry Speakes, said the messages and a statement by the President outlining his position on the renewed fighting in Beirut, were made after a two-hour meeting of the Special Situation Group, headed by Vice President George Bush, followed by an hour-long meeting of the National Security Council in which Reagan participated.
Speakes said Reagan was informed of the renewed fighting last night by his National Security Advisor, William Clark, and was briefed again by Clark at 6:10 am today. The President earlier today had expressed “profound concern” over the situation, according to Speakes.
NO DECISION ON SANCTIONS
The spokesman refused to comment on news reports that sanctions against Israel had been considered during the two meetings. But there were strong indications that it had been but no decision has been made as yet.
Speakes stressed that the White House will not address the subject of whether sanctions are being considered. “It serves no useful purpose whatsoever to get into specifics of this type at this time,” he said. “However, any steps that we take, any steps that we are considering, any options that are before us are and will be taken in the interest of restoration of the cease-fire and pursuit of the cause of peace in the Middle East.”
Reagan’s statement noted that the Israeli forces accompanied by heavy shelling have moved across the cease-fire line in Beirut only a day after he had met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and told him “that the U.S. placed great importance on the sustained maintenance of a cease-fire in place to avoid further casualties and to secure the prompt withdrawal of the PLO forces in Beirut.”
Speakes, however, said the U.S. cannot assess which side broke the cease-fire, something it has been unable to do throughout the situation because of the distance, time and place.
Speakes refused to say that the U.S. position “coincides” with Israel’s on Lebanon, something Shamir maintained after his visits to the White House and the State Department this week. Speakes noted that the U.S. government has outlined its position on Lebanon secretly.
While he did not list it again, Reagan has frequently said that the U.S. aims in Lebanon are the removal of the PLO, the restoration of the sovereignty of the government of Lebanon over the entire country and the removal of all foreign forces. Israel has maintained that these are its goals also.
Speakes also refused to comment on claims that the U.S. is not being tough enough with Israel. He said that the U.S. “is interested in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East” and “basically every action, every statement that we take is designed to ensure that. Its a difficult situation. No one can deny that. Our actions are designed to the end that we all seek peace.”
TEXT OF REAGAN’S STATEMENT
The President’s statement said:
“Last night Israeli forces moved forward on several fronts from their cease-fire lines around Beirut. These movements were accompanied by heavy. Israeli shelling and come only a day after I had made clear to the Israeli government, in my meeting with Foreign Minister Shamir, that the U.S. placed importance on the sustained maintenance of a cease-fire in place–to avoid further civilian casualties and to secure the proper withdrawal of the PLO forces in Beirut.
“This is a necessary first step toward our goal of restoring the authority of the government of Lebanon, a goal Ambassador Habib is eamestly working toward with the fuil cooperation of the government of Lebanon.
“Through governments which have direct contact with the PLO, I have expressed my strong conviction that the PLO must not delay further its withdrawal from Lebanon. At the some time, I have expressed to the government of Israel the necessity of establishing and maintaining a strict cease-fire in place so that this matter can be promptly resolved.”