WASHINGTON (Jan. 6)
President Reagan said last night that he is sending his special Middle East envoy, Philip Habib, back to the region in an effort to break the deadlock in the negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. Habib was summoned to Washington yesterday from his vacation in Florida.
Although the Reagan Administration is reportedly concerned about the lack of progress in the talks, Reagan did not indicate this feeling in his nationally-televised press conference last night. “It is not unexpected to us,” he said. “We would have liked to have had this whole thing move faster. But in view of the situation, not only in Lebanon but the whole Middle East, we never had any illusion that this could be done overnight.”
He added that the negotiations that are now going on “will lead to the removal of the foreign forces.” Israel and Lebanon have not been able to agree on the agenda for the negotiations because Israel wants to discuss some sort of normalization of relations agreement while Lebanon wants to concentrate on the removal of the Israeli troops from its territory. Lebanon will also have to open negotiations with Syria and with the Palestine Liberation Organization for the removal of their forces.
Reagan said that it was a “tragedy” that fighting was going on in Tripoli. The fighting is between pro and anti-Syrian groups. Reagan noted that the fighting is another reason “why we want the outside forces out, so that the new government of Lebanon can begin to keep order itself and establish its sovereignty.”