WASHINGTON (Mar. 9)
The possibility arose today that Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir would meet with Lebanese Foreign Minister Elie Salim here next week either alone or in a tri-partite discussion with Secretary of State George Shultz.
But State Department officials stressed that such a meeting has not been scheduled and that both Foreign Ministers are coming to Washington for bilateral talks with Shultz. Department spokesman John Hughes said there is no plan to move the Lebanese negotiations now alternating between Lebanon and Israel, to Washington.
Shamir is scheduled to meet with Shultz on Sunday and Monday, according to Hughes. Salim is expected to arrive in Washington Sunday night.
Philip Habib, the U.S. special envoy in the Middle East who has been meeting with Lebanese and Israeli officials in an effort to work out an agreement for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, will sit in on the meetings Shultz has with the two Foreign Ministers, Hughes said. He said no meeting has been set between Shamir and President Reagan although he did not rule one out.
CAUTIONS AGAINST EXPECTING A BREAKTHROUGH
While conceding there is “always a possibility of a breakthrough at any meeting,” Hughes warned against expecting this to happen on the Lebanese issue when Shamir and Shultz meet. He repeated his suggestion of last week that it is “unwise” to keep going from extreme optimism to extreme pessimism over the course of the negotiations which, he said, should be regarded as moving forward.
Hughes reiterated that the U.S. is “concerned about” safeguarding Israel’s security in southern Lebanon. He would not comment on reports from Jerusalem that Shamir has suggested joint Israeli-Lebanese and American security patrols in return for Israel abandoning its demands for military outposts in southern Lebanon.
Hughes said that “various possibilities” have been discussed about how to provide security for Israel, including the use of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and moving the multinational forces now in Beirut to the Israeli border.