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Shultz Not Going to Mideast, but Habib, Draper Returning

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Secretary of State George Shultz announced today that special U.S. envoys Philip Habib and Morris Draper, will return to the Middle East later this week, probably on Friday, in an effort to seek a Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon.

Speaking at a press conference here, Shultz said that if the Syrians continue to refuse to speak with Habib, then another negotiating partner would be found. Shultz did not specify whom that might be. The Syrians have said that Habib is not welcome in Damascus, accusing the U.S. envoy of pro-Israel bias.

Shultz said he had no plans to return to the region to work for a Syrian withdrawal. It was suggested that Shultz might stop in Syria on his return from a visit to the Far East and South Asia which begins tomorrow and concludes July 6.

Shultz said the Administration continued to be “fully engaged” in seeking a complete foreign troop withdrawal from Lebanon. He said the Administration has been in contact with the Israelis. Saudi Arabians and Syrians, and other friends of the U.S. in the Mideast.

The secretary said that “there are no particular deadlines” for the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, although he said that the “sooner the withdrawal process can start, the better.” He said that whatever happens, the U.S. will continue to be in contact with the parties involved.

Regarding the internal fighting among the Palestine Liberation Organization, Shultz said he was not sure of exactly what was taking place. He said there “is clearly a struggle going on.”

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