WASHINGTON (Jul. 20)
The Reagan Administration appeared to warn Israel today that its decision to redeploy its troops in Lebanon could “complicate” the already “very difficult tasks” of the government of President Amin Gemayel. State Department spokesman John Hughes stressed that the U.S. was still “consulting” with Israel in order to learn the details of its decision which have not yet been made public.
“Israel, of course, makes its own decisions,” Hughes said. “But our position on partial withdrawal of all foreign forces has not changed. Our basic objective is the full withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. Any partial withdrawal, therefore, should be within the framework of that objective and should not complicate the very difficult tasks facing the government of President Gemayel,” the State Department spokesman said.
The Administration has reportedly been opposed to any redeployment by Israel unless it is part of a timetable for full withdrawal, Israel has held a decision in abeyance pending the visit of Premier Menachem Begin to Washington. However, Begin telephoned President Reagan yesterday to postpone that visit for “personal reasons.” Hughes appeared today to see no link between the postponement and the Israeli Cabinet’s redeployment decision.
Meanwhile, Hughes underscored the warning against complicating Gemayel’s problems by making a strong statement today about the heavy shelling of Beirut from the Shouf mountains area, the very area Israel is believed ready to vacate.
“This brutal and indiscriminate shelling of populated areas is especially distressing at the very moment the Lebanese President is engaged in talks here in Washington aimed at the withdrawal of all external forces leading to national reconciliation and the extension of the Lebanese central government’s authority throughout the country,” Hughes said, “This latest incident poignantly underscores the necessity for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign forces which remains the key and paramount objective of our efforts with all the parties. “
That effort is underway now with Gemayel who arrived in Washington yesterday and will have a working lunch with Secretary of State George Shultz at the State Department tomorrow. He meets with Reagan on Friday.