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Weinberger Sees Marginal Improvement, but Warns of Danger in Lebanon

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Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said today that the situation in Lebanon “has improved, at least marginally,” because of the Israel-Lebanon agreement. But he appeared to pin his hope for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon on Damascus recognizing that such a move would serve its own best interests.

Weinberger, appearing on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program, conceded that “the danger is very strong” in Lebanon as long as the armies of Israel and Syria “continue to face each other in a very close position.”

Weinberger praised the “very skillful work” by Secretary of State George Shultz ” and others” which led to Israeli-Lebanese agreement “on a plan of withdrawal necessarily contingent on the withdrawal of the Syrians too.” He said, “We are concentrating all of our efforts in urging other nations that are able to do so to be persuasive with the Syrians, to point out that this is the best, the only road to peace.”

Weinberger added: “We are very hopeful that that will succeed. It’s not going to be very rapid. It’s going to take a long time; it already has taken a long time. I would think that the fact that the Israelis and Lebanese have agreed to withdrawal arrangements should make it increasingly clear to the Syrians that withdrawal is to their very best advantage.”

SOVIET BUILDUP CITED

The Defense Secretary cited the Soviet military buildup in Syria. “I would think that with the continued and increasing presence of the Soviets in Syria, the Syrians themselves would want to work out arrangements that could diminish the Soviet presence there. Most countries that have been subjected to Soviet presence militarily are very anxious to get rid of it and I would think the Syrians would not be an exception, ” he said.

But Weinberger did not see “any indication of any change in the situation” soon. “It seems to me that ultimately, the logic of the situation, the obvious benefits to Syria to pull back and be able to devote their resources to other things and remove some of the dangers of the Soviet presence — all these things would ultimately lead to the Syrians concluding that it is in their interests to withdraw and sign an agreement,” he said.

In an unrelated development, Weinberger cited Israel as an example in his response to charges by Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R.NY) that he is “inflexible” about defense spending. In a letter published in the Long Island Jewish World last week, Weinberger said Americans “could and should learn from the Israelis who have always understood that they best preserve peace and freedom by remaining vigilant — even when others call them ‘inflexible.'”

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