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U.S. Continues to Rule out Role for the USSR in Talks over Withdrawal of Foreign Troops from Syria

The Reagan Administration is continuing to rule out the Soviet Union as a participant in negotiations over the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon.

This was made clear today by State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg in the wake of remarks by Lebanese Foreign Minister Elie Salem on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program yesterday that a “dialogue” with the Soviet Union might be necessary to get the Syrians and Palestine Liberation Organization to leave Lebanon.

Romberg said the Soviet Union has been regularly kept “informed” about U.S. “objectives” in the Middle East, such as at the meetings between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. But he stressed that these consultations were “not negotiations.”

Romberg said the U.S. has been hoping that the Soviets would play a “constructive” role in the Middle East but instead, Moscow has “not been very helpful.” He explained that the Soviet supply of SAM-5 missiles to Syria and the stationing of Soviet troops there have had a “destabilizing” effect on the region.

GEMAYEL-REAGAN MEETING SET FOR FRIDAY

Meanwhile, Romberg said the Administration would be “discussing a range of ideas” with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel when he comes to Washington on Wednesday. But he would not say whether the U.S. has devised any new approach to convince Syria to agree to negotiate the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon. Gemayel is scheduled to meet with President Reagan on Friday.

In an appearance on the CBS “Morning News” today, Shultz did not make clear what approach if any the U.S. is considering toward Syria. “It’s true that Syria said it would withdraw as the Israelis withdrew and that Syria has basically taken a different stance now that it’s apparent Israel will actually withdraw,” he said. “We have to focus on that problem and focus on Syria. We always did know that Syria would be a problem,” Shultz said.

He denied that it had been a mistake for him to go to Syria last month. “We did accomplish a fair amount in terms of hearing people out in Syria, establishing a dialogue with the Syrians, in confirming our engagement with the Saudis, the Israelis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians and, of course, as well as the Lebanese who are at the center of the problem,” he said.

Shultz also denied that the Administration had been ignoring the overall Middle East problem by focussing on Lebanon. He said the Administration’s emphasis, as expressed by Reagan in his September 1 peace initiative, was “to engage with the peace process and to do everything we could to focus on the essential problem of the security of Israel, compatible with serving the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinian people. That’s the heart of the problem in the Middle East. We’ve addressed it, we continue to address it, and we don’t stop our efforts to do something about that.”

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