WASHINGTON (May. 16)
The Reagan Administration again today urged Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization to withdraw their forces from Lebanon. But it ruled out any role for the Soviet Union in the negotiations on withdrawal.
State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg stressed that while the United States and the Soviet Union frequently discussed the Middle East, “we don’t see a particular role” for the USSR in the negotiations on the departure of the Syrian forces and PLO terrorists from Lebanon.
Romberg reiterated that the Soviet supply to Syria of SAM-5 anti-aircraft missiles and the staffing of them by Soviet troops has been a “destabilizing and unwelcome development.” In addition, there has been speculation here that the increased movement of Syrian troops and PLO terrorists into the Bekaa valley of Lebanon, coupled with the Soviet denunciation of the Israeli-Lebanese agreement for Israel’s withdrawal and the Soviet warning that it could lead to war, could be an effort by the Soviet Union to push itself into the overall Mideast negotiations as one of the prices for a Syrian withdrawal.
But Romberg said that a “broader conference” is not needed now. He said the United States maintains that President Reagan’s September I peace initiative is the basic “framework” in which progress for peace in the Middle East can be made. In this context, Romberg expressed the hope that King Hussein of Jordan would now get the backing he needs to allow him to negotiate with Israel and Egypt for Palestinian autonomy.
HASSAN MEETS WITH REAGAN
Crown Prince Hassan Ibn Kalal of Jordan, after a 15-minute meeting with President Reagan at the White House this morning, gave no indication that Jordan would step back from its announced decision not to enter negotiations. Hassan did say that with an agreement for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon completed, there could be “a resuming of the wider priorities of Jerusalem and the occupied territories and the role of the Palestinian people.”
Hassan said that the situation in the Bekaa valley was “very tense.” But he added “we still hope the primary interest of the PLO is the future of the Palestinian people, not only in Lebanon, but in the occupied territories.”
PLO leader Yasir Arafat, who was in the Bekaa yesterday, reportedly to stifle opposition to his leadership among some of the PLO terrorist factions, was quoted as telling his group, Fatah, that “an effective war is the only way to redraw the political map of the Middle East.”
When Romberg was asked about this, he said, “One must ask how war or guerrilla action has helped the Palestinian people or the people of Lebanon. This has been Arafat’s policy for 20 years and look what it has brought. Now there is a chance for peace.”
Romberg continued to maintain that while the Syrians have rejected the Lebanese-Israeli agreement, they have not taken back their promise to withdraw from Lebanon. He said that neither special envoy Philip Habib or any other American official has any immediate plans to go to Damascus since it is now up to Lebanon to negotiate with Syria for the withdrawal of the Syrian troops and the PLO. He pointed out that these discussions are “just beginning.”
Meanwhile, Hassan was given a luncheon by Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam, and is scheduled to be the guest of honor at a dinner tonight hosted by Vice President George Bush. He came to the United States to substitute for King Hussein at the Ilth annual convention of the National Association of Arab-Americans last Saturday night.
REJECTS IMPLICATION OF LINKAGE
In another development, Romberg rejected as “untrue” that Israel’s approval of the agreement to withdraw from Lebanon was linked to the United States supplying Israel with American equipment and technological data it needs to develop its Lavie jet fighter.
Such a claim was made in a column by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, published in The Washington Post today, which said that the linkage was implied in a “Dear Misha” telegram Secretary of State George Shultz sent Israel Defense Minister Moshe Arens April 16. Misha is Arens’ nickname.
Romberg refused to comment on whether there was such a telegram. “It is completely untrue to suggest that there is some linkage between the decisions on Lavie and the licensing for it, on the one hand, and Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, on the other,” Romberg declared. He said later that that 25 export licenses have been approved for the Lavie and, as far as he knew, no other requests for the plane were pending from Israel.