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Arens Says There is Cause for Concern That Syria Might Attack Israeli Forces in Lebanon

Defense Minister Moshe Arens contended last night that there is “cause for concern” that Syria might attack Israeli forces in Lebanon. He said this does not mean that war is imminent but that Israel has to be on guard on that front.

Arens said Israel does not want hostilities with Syria but warned that Damascus has always been so hostile toward Israel that its policy could, with Justification, be called “wild” especially as the Syrians may be emboldened by the installation of Soviet SAM-5 anti-aircraft missiles on their soil.

SAYS U.S. ACTION IS UNPRECEDENTED

Arens made his remarks on a television interview, his first since taking office as Defense Minister six weeks ago. The former Israeli Ambassador to Washington castigated President Reagan for delaying the sale of 75 F-16 jet fighter-bombers to Israel until Israel pulls its forces out of Lebanon.

“I’m afraid there is no precedent to such a statement in relations between Israel and the United States during 35 years,” Arens declared. “It never happened that an American President has said that the supply of aid to which the United States obligated itself is conditioned on concessions on policy. Today in Lebanon, tomorrow on another front, “Arens said.

In that connection he urged greater stress on the development of Israel’s domestic arms industry to reduce its dependence on American weaponry. Arens also denounced Reagan’s recent promise to King Hussein that the U.S. would prevail upon Israel to freeze its settlement activities on the West Bank if Jordan joined the peace process.

Arens confirmed that Israel’s insistence on a commanding role for its ally, Maj. Saad Haddad in Lebanon remains the principal obstacle to an agreement with Lebanon over the withdrawal of Israeli forces from that country. He said Israel will not waver from its demand that Haddad be placed in command of a “territorial brigade” composed of his own 2,000-man Christian militia and Lebanese army regulars to control security in south Lebanon after Israeli forces are pulled out.

The Lebanese government, backed by the U.S., has refused to assign Haddad such a role although Beirut reportedly is now willing to give him some degree of authority in the region.

DELEGATIONS CONTINUE TO MEET

Meanwhile, the Israeli, Lebanese and American delegations convened for their fourth consecutive day this week, at Khalde in Lebanon, to continue the negotiations aimed at the withdrawal of foreign forces and political and security arrangements between Lebanon and Israel, The U.S. delegation was headed by President Reagan’s special Ambassador to the Middle East, Philip Habib, who returned to the region from Washington this week, reportedly with fresh proposals.

Habib met with top Lebanese leaders last night and the chief of the Israeli delegation, David Kimche, also spent the evening in Beirut meeting with Lebanese politicians. Voice of Israel Radio reported today.

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