WASHINGTON (Sep. 23)
The disposition of the large amounts of weapons found by the Israeli army in west Beirut has become another source of contention between the United States and Israel. State Department spokesman John Hughes said today that if Israel is turning the weapons over to the Christian militias in Lebanon, as has been reported, “we do not think that is a good move.” He said the issue is being discussed with Israel.
Hughes explained that under the terms of the agreement worked out by U.S. special Ambassador Philip Habib, the PLO was to have turned over all of its weapons, except personal arms, to the Lebanese government when it left west Beirut last month for other countries. He said that to the extent this was not done, it was a violation of the agreement.
The State Department spokesman said that the arms caches now found by the Israelis in west Beirut could either have belonged to the PLO or to the various militias there. Yesterday, Hughes implied that the arms had belonged to the PLO, although he conceded that was only an assumption.
“In either case, the spirit of the agreement would seem to require that the arms either be turned over to the Lebanese army or removed from Lebanon with the concurrence of the Lebanese authorities,” Hughes said.
He said he had no details about the arms except that they were primarily munitions although some weapons were involved. Hughes said he knew nothing about reports from Israel that the Israelis found a helicopter packed in a crate from Libya near the former headquarters of PLO chief Yasir Arafat in west Beirut.
Hughes said that about 800 of an available contingent of 1,200 U.S. marines will enter west Beirut some time this weekend. He said he expected Israeli forces will be out of west Beirut by then although this was not a condition. He noted that French troops are already there.
At the Pentagon today, spokesman Henry Catto said details of the deployment of the multinational force troops are still to be worked out with France, Italy and Lebanon. He indicated that they might be deployed at the Beirut airport. Catto noted that while the U.S. does not “anticipate violence,” it cannot fuel out the possibility.
At the State Department, meanwhile, Hughes denied vigorously a report that the U.S. has urged Israel’s National Religious Party to leave Premier Menachem Begin’s governing coalition.” It’s absolutely clear that the U.S. is not involving itself in any shape or form in the internal affairs of Israel, “Hughes said. “We just want to underscore that and make that absolutely clear. Any suggestions contending that the U.S. is meddling or interfering in Israel’s domestic affairs are absolutely without, foundation,” Hughes said.
In another development, Hughes said the U.S. plans to sell the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain six jet fighters as part of a $180 million arms deal. They include two Northrop F-5-E fighters which can be used for training or combat and four Northrop F-5-G Tigershark jet fighters. In addition, six pilots and 100 mechanics from Bahrain will be trained in the U.S. Delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to start in 1986. Hughes noted that the Administration had notified Congress of the sale to Bahrain last April but is sending a new notification because it substituting F-5-Gs for the F-5-Es which it had originally planned to sell Bahrain.