Shultz Not Encouraged by 5 Hour Meeting with Assad

Secretary of State George Shultz told Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir tonight that he was “not despairing” but neither was he encouraged by his five hour meeting with President Hafez Assad of Syria in Damascus earlier today.

Shultz, who arrived here this evening and will meet with Premier Menachem Begin tomorrow morning, apparently made no headway in convincing Assad to drop his opposition to the Israel-Lebanon withdrawal agreement and agree to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon, according to Israeli sources who briefed reporters after Shultz’s meeting with Shamir.

They said the fact he was not despairing “does not mean he found grounds for optimism.” At the same time, a reported decision to set up a joint U.S.-Syrian commission on “Lebanese sovereignty and independence” was seen as a success of sorts.

Shultz was quoted as telling reporters enroute from Damascus to Tel Aviv that “the doors are not closed.” But he did not conceal the fact that his session with Assad was a grueling argument in which the two men were diametrically opposed on the meaning and significance of the Israel-Lebanon agreement.

Shultz dined with Defense Minister Moshe Arens tonight. At his meeting with Begin tomorrow, the subject of Israel’s plans to redeploy its forces in Lebanon is expected to be discussed. (See separate story.) Meanwhile, Shultz announced that he will stop over briefly in Jordan and Egypt after he leaves Israel to return to Washington tomorrow.

NEXT STORY