WASHINGTON (Aug. 12)
President Reagan, in a telephone call to Premier Menachem Begin, said he was outraged over Israel’s shelling and bombing of west Beirut this morning and stressed that his special envoy Philip Habib cannot complete his negotiations unless there is a complete ceasefire.
In announcing the President’s action, White House Deputy spokesman, Larry Speakes said that the President told Begin that the Israeli bombardment started today as the negotiations to remove the PLO terrorists from Beirut “were at the point of success.”
Speakes stressed that the negotiations this morning were halted by the Lebanese government which said the fighting made it impossible to contact several of the parties to the negotiations, presumably, the PLO. Begin, in a telephone call to Reagan later assured him that a new cease-fire has now gone into effect, Speakes said, adding that the U.S. “hopes the cease-fire will hold” so that negotiations can continue. As of the 1 p.m. White House statement, the negotiations had not resumed.
(Earlier, in Jerusalem, a new snag had been reported to have developed in the negotiations, namely, the PLO’s refusal to give Habib a list of names of terrorists in Beirut. See separate story.)
FIRST U.S. PUBLIC CRITICISM
The White House statement read by Speakes today was the first public criticism of the fighting directly aimed at Israel by the Reagan Administration. In all previous statements during the last nine weeks urging for the maintenance of the cease-fire the Administration had said that it could not judge whether Israel or the PLO was the first to break the cease-fire.
Today’s statement did not make any judgement either, but was aimed at Israel without directly mentioning the PLO. When Speakes was asked whether any sanctions against Israel was being considered, he said, “I won’t discuss” this issue.
REAGAN EXPRESSES ‘OUTRAGE’
In a statement read to reporters, Speakes said that in Reagan’s telephone conversation with Begin “The President expressed his outrage over this latest round of massive military action. He emphasized that Israel’s action halted Ambassador Habib’s negotiations for the peaceful resolution of the Beirut crisis when they were at the point of success. The result has been more needless destruction and bloodshed. The President made it clear that it is imperative that the cease-fire in place be observed absolutely in order for negotiations to proceed. We understand the Israeli Cabinet approved a new ceasefire which is in effect. It must hold.” At the State Department, Reagan was quoted as having been “shocked” when he learned of the heavy Israeli bombing this morning.
Speakes gave the following scenario of Reagan’s contacts with Israel today:
He said that this morning U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis brought a message to Jerusalem which was delivered to Begin while he was in the Knesset. The President placed the call to Begin from the Oval Office between 10 and 11 a.m. (EDT), Speakes said that at 10:50 a.m. the President received a call from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia expressing his concern over the bombardment of Beirut.
At 11:10 a.m. the President’s call to Begin got through and the two spoke for 10 minutes in which Reagan expressed the sentiments outlined in his statement, Speakes said. He said shortly before this phone call, the Administration learned that Israel had ordered a ceasing of the aerial bombardment of west Beirut. Begin called Reagan back at 11:40 a.m. and told him that a complete ceasefire was in effect.
Secretary of State George Shultz was with Reagan in the Oval Office, Speakes said.