WASHINGTON (Sep. 21)
The State Department stressed today that President Reagan in his nationally televised speech yesterday, had “demanded” that Israel leave all of Beirut, not just west Beirut, so that a multinational force can help the Lebanese government “restore control over its own capital.”
“The sooner Israeli forces are out of Beirut, the sooner the Lebanese government can restore order,” Department spokesman John Hughes said. But he maintained that the departure of Israeli forces are not a “precondition” for the multinational force made up of U.S. marines and Italian and French troops to enter the Lebanese capital.
Hughes said the United States government has not received a formal communique, as yet, from the Israeli government on the Cabinet decision today agreeing to the multinational force but he said that, on the basis of news reports from Jerusalem, the United States was proceeding with talks with the governments of Lebanon, France and Italy about the force, its size and its duties. The marines could be in Beirut within 72 hours.
Hughes said there had been a “thinning out” of Israeli troops in Beirut but “entire units” have not left the city.
SHULTZ: MARINES’ STAY IS INDETERMINATE
Secretary of State George Shultz, appearing on NBC-TV’s “Today” show this morning, said that, while the U.S. marines would be in Beirut for a “limited duration,” he could not give an exact time of 10, 20, 30, or 40 days. He said the reason was he did not know how long it would take for the Lebanese government to “create stability and govern” in Beirut.
Shultz added “I don’t want to put down some number of days because then we might somehow be in the position of doing something that was not appropriate at the end of that number of days, or we might feel that it is propitious to leave well before that, and people would then say, ‘why don’t you stay longer?’ So it is a mistake to put yourself into that traps, “Should U.S. forces be required to remain longer than 30 days, the President would have to seek approval of Congress under the War Powers Act.
Shultz rejected the charges by some that the marines were pulled out too early when they left September 10. He said that at that time Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, who was later assassinated, “was in the process of bringing about a reconciliation” in Lebanon. “So the conditions that were presumed at the time we came in had been met, and so we left, and I think properly so,” Shultz said.
Meanwhile, Hughes said the United States “welcomed the election of Amin Gemayel today as President. “We believe this is an important beginning in the process of reconciliation vital in Lebanon’s future as a nation,” the spokesman said.
He added that Reagan “is determined to assist Lebanon in the arduous process of rebuilding and reconciliation.” He observed that the multinational force “is an essential element in this important effort aimed at enabling the Lebanese government to restore security to its capital and eventually throughout its territory.”
Reagan did not announce the composition or the size of the American contribution to the multinational force. Apparently it will consist of the some marines from the U.S. Sixth Fleet who participated in the earlier force. They were withdrawn from Beirut on September 10 and are reportedly stationed at Naples, about 72 hours by sea from the Lebanese capital.