JERUSALEM (Apr. 5)
Senior members of the Israeli, Lebanese and American negotiating teams met in Khalde, Lebanon today in an effort to make progress on unresolved issues. Israeli sources said the smaller format and informal nature of today’s session was thought to be helpful.
But the meeting was held against the background of new tension between Washington and Jerusalem over President Reagan’s statement last week that he will not authorize the delivery of 75 F-16 jet fighter-bombers to Israel as long as Israeli forces are in Lebanon.
Israeli officials see this as an application of pressure on Israel for concessions to break the impasse over security arrangements in south Lebanon. They resent particularly the President’s characterization of Israel’s presence in Lebanon as an occupying force. The matter is expected to top the agenda at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting. The regular weekly session, normally held on Sundays, was deferred because of the Passover holiday.
Israeli sources said Reagan was applying pressure because of the failure of his special Mideast envoy, Philip Habib, to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations which began four months ago.
Reports reaching here today spoke of a “tough” meeting over the weekend between Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam and the Israeli Charge d’Affaires in Washington, Binyamin Netanyahu. The Israeli diplomat had been instructed to express his government’s concern over the President’s remarks.
DENY ACCORD IS NEAR ON HADDAD
Israeli officials, meanwhile, denied emphatically a report on the Phalangist’s Radio Free Lebanon in Beirut that an agreement was virtually reached with Israel over the future status of its ally, Maj. Saad Haddad. According to the report, Haddad, who commands the Israel-backed Christian militia in south Lebanon, would become the “liaison officer” between the Lebanese and Israeli armies after the latter withdraws from Lebanon.
Officials here insisted there had been no breakthrough and stressed that Israel has not abandoned its demand that Haddad be given command of security in south Lebanon following Israel’s withdrawal. The Beirut government, backed by the U.S., refuses to assign him such a role.
Israeli sources confirmed however that there was some progress on the matter of joint patrols of the border area by the Israeli and Lebanese armies. But on that issue too a final agreement is not at hand, they said. According to press reports today, Habib, who returned to Washington a week ago, is due back in the Middle East by the end of this week.