WASHINGTON (May. 11)
Sen. Carl Levin (D. Mich.) has accused the State Department of failing to make public that it knew some 300-600 Palestine Liberation Organization “fighters” had remained in west Beirut last September following the agreement for the evacuation of all PLO terrorists.
“I believe the way the State Department has conducted itself in this matter is further evidence of a tilt by the Administration away from Israel,” Levin said in entering into the Congressional Record yesterday a series of letters between him and Lawrence Eagleburger, Deputy Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
Levin said that after he and other Senators were told about the PLO terrorists, Eagleburger promised to make the information public. He said he was entering the letters,which date from September 24 to March 22, to “set the historical record straightwith regard to what the State Department knew about the PLO presence in west Beirut when Israel moved in, and how if distorted public perception at the time and since then by its refusal to make the information known.”Israeli troops moved into west Beirut September 15 following the assassination of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel.
LETTERS TO EAGLEBURGER
In a letter to Eagleburger September 24, Levin noted that on September 17 Eagleburger assured Senators at a briefing that “if the State Department had not that day already stated that the PLO kept 300-600 armed personnel in Beirut” in violation of the agreement worked out by special envoy Philip Habib, “the State Department would do so promptly.”
Levin wrote another letter on January II again asking that the information be made public. He received a reply February 4 from Powell Moore, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, which talked about PLO “combatants” having “reinfiltrated into Lebanon.”
After another letter to Eagleburger March I, Levin received a reply from Eagleburger March 22 in which the State Department official said “last September 17, I informed you and your colleagues that according to U.S. intelligence estimates, 300-600 armed PLO fighters remained in Beirut in violation of the agreement negotiated by Ambassador Habib. “
Eagleburger said that he told the Senators that the State Department spokesman would make the information public if the press asked about it but the question was never raised. “The Department was remiss in not taking direct steps to make our assessment public immediately following my testimony,” Eagleburger admitted. But he added that because of the “fast breaking developments in Beirut,” this issue “was soon eclipsed by other developments.”
Levin said he finds “rather disturbing” Eagleburger’s explanation that the reporters did not ask about the issue “when the media hadn’t even known about it.”