WASHINGTON (Aug. 25)
President Reagan sent to Congress today the report required under the War Powers Act for employing United States marines in Beirut in connection with the continuing evacuation of PLO forces from that city.
State Department spokesman John Hughes explained that “the War Powers Resolution calls for a report to Congress whenever United States troops are introduced into hostilities or into a situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances … A report is required when either or both of these situations occur.”
He added: “The War Powers Resolution does not require that the report cites a specific subsection of the resolution; rather, it requires that the Congress be provided full information concerning the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States forces, the authority under which such introductions are placed, the estimated scope and duration of the involvement, and other information relevant to Congressional responsibilities.
“The report which the President transmitted today fulfills the requirement of the law by providing the Congress full information concerning the circumstances of the deployment in Beirut.”
Hughes stated that “the President’s judgement as to the possibility of hostilities was based upon careful consideration of the facts and circumstances involved. As indicated in the report, the arrangements worked out by special Presidential envoy Philip) Habib were designed to insure that the multinational force will be able to perform its functions without interference, and particularly the agreement between the United States and Lebanon expressly rules out combat responsibilities for our forces.”
Hughes said that there had been a careful plan of safety arrangements for the multinational force and with the French advance contingent in Beirut for several days, the United States had an opportunity to see the implementation of the safety assurances.
He stated “the departure plan” for the PLO forces “so far has been implemented successfully without interference, so, based on all these factors, the President concluded that while isolated acts of violence cannot be ruled out, there was no reason to expect that United States forces would become involved in hostilities.”
Hughes said United States marines went into Lebanon on time today and took up their positions very quickly without incident. A group of 563 PLO terrorists left Beirut today by sea for Syria. He said the decision to send the PLO men by sea instead of land was not linked to reports of fighting in Lebanon yesterday. He said “it is simply that the parties themselves, for a variety of operational and technical reasons on the ground, elected to go by sea.”
HELPING IN RECONSTRUCTING LEBANON
Asked whether the United States had received a request to assist in the rebuilding of Lebanon, Hughes stated that “the thinking here is to consider such a request. I do not think there has been a formal request, but there have been consultations. The United States has been very interested in this humanitarian endeavor. We do not have a final assessment of the amount that will need to be channeled into short-term and longer term reconstruction in Lebanon.”
Hughes said “much of the technical and financial resources for reconstruction will come from the Lebanese private sector but we do foresee a continued need for assistance from other countries, from various private sources and international agencies, as well as the United States.”
SAYS ISRAEL IS TRUE ADD VALUED FRIEND
Regarding a statement by former Undersecretary of State George Ball in today’s New York Times, that Israel, “the aggressor,” should pay the cost of rebuilding Lebanon and the U.S. “should deduct the cost of that help from our annual subsidy to Israel, ” Hughes said there would be no official response to that proposal.
Hughes said “it seems to me that both the President and the Secretary of State) have made clear that Israel is a true and valued friend and that one would consider Israel’s needs as Israel’s needs and not link them to whatever else might be done to other countries in the area.” Hughes added that “in its relations with each country, the needs of each country should be looked at as individual needs.”
ROLE OF U.S. NAVAL ESCORT
Hughes was asked whether United States naval ships were accompanying PLO evacuation vessels to “protect them from attack from Israel.” He replied that the evacuation plan indicated that U.S. ships would, if requested, escort the commercial vessels taking the PLO men out.
Hughes said “on the basis of our extensive discussions with the Israeli government concerning the evacuation from Beirut, we have every confidence that everything will go smoothly, as it has so far, but as a matter of common prudence, we have been asked to assure safe passage of the evacuees while en route to their destinations and provision of United States naval escort is part of that request by the parties involved.” He said there were no objections from Israel to this procedure.