WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
Secretary of State George Shultz has rejected Israel’s demand for permanent security positions in south Lebanon as inconsistent with Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“Israel’s security needs are an important and legitimate aspect of any withdrawal plan,” Shultz said yesterday in answering questions on the ABC-TV “This Week with David Brinkley” program. “There is no controversy about that whatsoever.”
But he added that “a permanent Israeli armed force present in Lebanon is hardly consistent with the idea of sovereignty for Lebanon.” He stressed that he believes “assurances that Israel properly wants” can be worked out that are consistent with Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Shultz denied that U.S. policy in Lebanon is the “speedy withdrawal of Israeli forces.” It is, he said, “speedy withdrawal of all forces in a manner that’s consistent with the security needs of Israel, recognizing the implications of southern Lebanon in the historic destabilization affect on Israel, and the emergence of a Lebanon that can govern itself.”
Shultz agreed that there are problems between the various factions in Lebanon which might increase if the foreign forces left. But he noted that these “problems have been less evident where the foreign troops have not been present and where the Lebanese armed forces have been responsible for security.”
The Secretary of State reiterated his personal commitment to the restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty. “I have been to Lebanon and Beirut in the days before the PLO ravaged it and have seen what a beautiful and central place it can be in the Middle East,” he said.
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT HUSSEIN
On other matters, Shultz said he was “optimistic” that King Hussein of Jordan will be able to join the Middle East peace talks and rejected the view that one of the reasons Hussein was hesitant was fear that Saudi Arabia would cut off funds to the Hashemite kingdom.
“King Hussein wants to enter the peace process, he recognizes the importance of working out peace problems with Israel,” Shultz said. “I’m pretty optimistic that one of these fine days the conditions will be right.”
When it was noted that during his appearance recently on the ABC-TV program, Hussein had said that Israel must withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza as a condition for him to enter the negotiations, Shultz replied that the final status of the territories is what will be negotiated. But Shultz said that the Camp David agreements calls for a transitional period before determining the final status of the West Bank and Gaza and said he believes this would be the first issue “that would be tackled” if Hussein enters the talks.
LAUDS SAUDI ARABIA’S ROLE
As for the Saudis, Shultz said they have “been playing a constructive role” both with Hussein and in Lebanon. He said this “doesn’t mean they have done everything that at least we think they might do. But they have done a lot, will continue to do a lot. I think they are a very constructive partner in this whole process.”
Shultz also called Moshe Arens, who is leaving Washington after a year as Israel’s Ambassador to become Minister of Defense, an “outstanding man.”