WASHINGTON (Jul. 5)
The Reagan Administration reiterated today that it was committed to the “concurrent withdrawal” of Israeli and Syrian troops and Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists from Lebanon.
“United States policy is that there should be, as soon as possible, a total and concurrent withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon,” State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said.
His comments were made as Secretary of State Gearge Shultz arrived in Damascus in an attempt to convince Syrian President Hafez Assad to withdraw his troops from Lebanon and, along with them, the PLO forces there. Shultz was accompanied by U.S. special envoys Morris Draper and Richard Fairbanks. Special Ambassador Philip Habib remained in Beirut.
Reports from the Mideast today are that Shultz was not bringing the Syrians any inducements to leave Lebanon, Romberg seemed to concur in that assessment. “Our objectives remain as the Secretary described them on June 29 — withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, and security for Israel’s northern border,” Romberg said. “As the Secretary has made clear, these objectives are served by the Lebanese-Israeli agreement which we fully stand behind.”
JUST PASSING THROUGH
The spokesman had no explanation as to why Shultz decided to go to the Middle East at the end of his trip to Asia when he had previously ruled out stopping there on his way home. All Romberg would say is that “the Secretary is passing through the area to make brief stops during which he will have the opportunity to talk with the leaders of these countries, and to assess their views and convey ours in regard to how to achieve our common objectives in Lebanon.”
Shultz visited Saudi Arabia and Lebanon before going to Syria today. He will go next to Israel before returning to Washington, probably late Thursday night.
Shultz’s visit came after Syria rejected visits by Habib and Draper in the wake of Damascus’ denunciation of the Israeli-Lebanese agreement.
Romberg would not say whether Shultz had been invited to Damascus by the Syrians or whether he had requested to be allowed to stop there. However, Romberg did note the visit was “coordinated” between the two countries. Reportedly, Pakistan, which was Shultz’s last scheduled stop, may have had a role in arranging his visit to Syria.
The State Department continued today to have no comment on the reported proposal by Habib to the Israelis that they agree to a timetable for withdrawal as a means of convincing the Syrians that the Israeli troops will leave Lebanon. When Romberg was asked about this proposal, he would only repeat his statement that the United States continues to support a “concurrent withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.”