WASHINGTON (Oct. 28)
The Reagan Administration will not decide whether to increase the number of U.S. marines in Lebanon until the operational method is decided upon for the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops and Palestine Liberation Organization forces.
This was stressed today by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in a Pentagon press conference and at the State Department by spokesman John Hughes. Hughes said that once the plan for withdrawal is developed the U.S. “would have to see what the role for the multinational force would be in that plan, if it indeed changes.”
The 1,200 marines in Beirut along with the French and Italian troops have been keeping peace in the Lebanese capital. But the Lebanese government would like the multinational force of 3,800 persons expanded to about 30,000 with a wider range of responsibility in the country.
Hughes said that President Reagan would have to see whether the multinational force as it now exists could perform the mission assigned to it, if one will be, under the withdrawal agreement and then decide whether to increase the U.S. forces.
DRAPER IN BEIRUT FOR WITHDRAWAL TALKS
Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who is a special envoy for negotiations on Lebanon, began talks with the Lebanese government on withdrawal today. He is expected to go to Israel next and then to Syria. In Jerusalem, a government spokesman said Draper is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir there tomorrow.
According to reports from Beirut today, Lebanese Prime Minister Shafiq Al-Wazzan, who along with President Amin Gemayel attended the talks with Draper, said the two sides had formulated the basis of future talks on the withdrawal of the Israeli, Syrian and PLO forces from Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Hughes said he could not estimate how much aid the U.S. will be giving Lebanon to rebuild its army. He said no decision would be made until a Pentagon team that visited Lebanon makes its report. But he stressed that President Gemayel during his visit here made a “strong impression” on the Administration as to the “vigor” he intends to employ in rebuilding Lebanon. Hughes said that the U.S. wants to be “supportive” in this effort.