TEL AVIV (Dec. 12)
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who returned tonight from visits to the U.S. and Honduras, disclosed that an Israeli military mission would leave for the Central American country next month but denied reports that he had signed any arms sales deals with Honduran officials during his brief stay in Tegucigalpa, the capital, last week.
According to Sharon, the military mission to Honduras is part of a general program to strengthen Israel’s military cooperation with Latin American countries.
Sharon said that reported plans for a diplomatic shuttle by U.S. special envoys Philip Habib and Morris Draper to assist in negotiations between Israel and Lebanon might be useful in advancing the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. “But for an agreement between Israel and Lebanon on normal peaceful arrangements, direct talks are essential,” he said. “After all, it is Israel and Lebanon which have to live in peace side by side and there is no alternative to direct negotiations,” he added.
(American officials accompanying U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz in Rome yesterday reportedly said the shuttle plan would be an attempt to break the impasse in talks between Israel and Lebanon over Israel’s insistence that they be conducted in Jerusalem and Beirut. The latest Habib plan would remove the question of venue, the officials said.)
Sharon told reporters tonight that he had not met with U.S. officials in Washington during his latest trip because no such meetings had been planned. “I did not request any meetings before leaving for America and neither did I request any meetings during my stay in the U.S.,” he said. He said the purpose of his short visit to New York was to meet with leaders of the American Jewish community and explain some of Israel’s problems to them. (See separate story, P.2.)