Begin’s July 27 White House Visit to Be Preceded by Reagan-gemayel Meeting July 22

The White House announced today that Israeli Premier Menachem Begin has accepted President Reagan’s invitation to visit him in Washington July 27. The White House also announced that President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon will visit President Reagan a week earlier, on July 22.

Meanwhile, U.S. special envoy Philip Habib continued his consultations at the State Department today on “overall tactics and strategy in the Middle East,” State Department spokesman John Hughes reported. “Ambassador Habib is playing an important role in those consultations,” Hughes stated.

He said he had no information on Habib’s future travel plans. “I think the kind of discussions and consultations he is presently engaged in would have a bearing in determining that … At the end of those discussions, his plans will be clear and will be made fairly soon,” Hughes said.

Responding to speculation that Habib may be leaving his post, Hughes said “The President has total confidence” in Habib, adding that Habib “has done long and enduring work and I assume that at some stage he will want to go back to California, but he has also made it clear that he remains at the disposal of the President.”

SHULTZ NOT GOING TO DAMASCUS

Hughes stressed that “it is baseless to suggest that there are any pressures on him (Habib) to stand down.” He also said the role of special envoy Morris Draper and his future travel plans are also being discussed in today’s consultations.

According to Hughes, there are no plans for Secretary of State George Shultz to visit Damascus or the Middle East in general when he returns from his visit to the Far East June 24-July 6. But Hughes added, “never rule anything out.”

He reiterated the Administration’s position on the possible redeployment of Israeli troops in Lebanon. “We are in favor of the complete and total withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. What contributes to that is what we are pursuing,” Hughes said.

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