WASHINGTON (Oct. 6)
Special Presidential envoy Philip Habib stressed today that the U.S. continues to maintain that in order to restore Lebanon’s sovereignty, all Palestine Liberation Organization combatants as well as Israeli and Syrian troops must leave Lebanon. But he gave no timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
“It is quite clear that all external forces in Lebanon should, must, leave Lebanon if Lebanon is going to have its authority assured,” Habib said after a White House luncheon meeting with President Reagan. “And that includes Israelis, Syrians and the remaining combatant Palestinians in Lebanon. One way or another, that’s got to be worked out.”
Habib, who has just returned from the Middle East, reported to the President on his recent swing through the region at the luncheon which was also attended by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam, the Presidential Counsellor Edwin Meese, National Security Advisor William Clark, and Robert McFarlane, the NSC’s Middle East expert.
SAYS WITHDRAWAL IS URGENT
After the lunch, Reagan accompanied Habib part of the way to the South Lawn but returned to the White House before the envoy met with reporters. Habib said that Reagan had reiterated, at their meeting, America’s commitment to restore Lebanon’s “integrity, security and independence.” He said the U.S. wanted foreign forces to leave-Lebanon “as quickly as possible” but he could give no timetable.
Asked if this could be accomplished by the end of the year, Habib replied it could be done sooner but all depended upon the negotiations. He stressed that the U.S. felt the matter was urgent because as long as foreign troops are in Lebanon there was always the possibility of “incident escalation.”
Habib emphasized that the next step was continuation of the negotiations between the parties involved. He said that in his recent talks in the Middle East as well as in the talks conducted there by Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, they were able to nail down the issues and thus achieve a better understanding by all sides in the negotiations.
Habib said he was returning to his home in California but would be dealing with the issue in Washington. He said he had no immediate plans to return to the Middle East but was always at the call of the President. Draper will continue to represent the U.S. in the negotiations on the scene. Presumably, if a major snag developed, Habib would return to the region.
SAFEGUARDING PALESTINIANS IN LEBANON
As for safeguarding Palestinians living in Lebanon, Habib said the return of the multinational force to Beirut was necessary to “restore some degree of order and responsibility” in the Lebanese capital. He said the multinational force and the Lebanese security force are working together to restore “law and order” through the Lebanese authorities.
“The presence of the multinational force permits the Lebanese authorities to exercise their authority and in our view that authority should be exercised with due process,” Habib said.