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Administration Says Role of Marines in Lebanon Remains Unchanged

The Reagan Administration maintained today that the role of the U.S. marine contingent in Lebanon has not changed despite President Reagan’s authorization to marine commanders on the scene to call for air strikes if their troops are in danger.

There is no change in the role or size of the multinational force in Lebanon of which the 1,200 marines are a part, State Department deputy spokeman Alan Rom berg strssed today.

His remarks came after the White House an nounced that Reagan had authorized marine commanders to call for air strikes from U.S. warships off shore if their troops were being endangerd. The ships have already shelled the Shouf mountains from where Druze and other forces have been firing on the Lebanese army, causing casualties among marines around Beirut.

NOTES POSSIBILITY OF U.S. AIR STRIKES

White House deputy press spokesman Larry Speakes also indicated today that air strikes could be called for in support of the Lebanese army if an attack on it endangered the marines. Speakes emphasized that he was talking about “fire power” from the warships off the Lebanese coast and that the marines would not be used on search missions into the mountains.

This apparently means that the 2,000 marines who arrived off Lebanon yesterday will remain aboard their ships and will not be used for the present to increase the size of the U.S. MNF contingent.

Romberg said the marines will only act in self-defense. “When the marines are fired upon, when there’s need for self-defense, they will fire in self-defense,” he said.

Romberg stressed that the U.S. is in Lebanon for the “support of the central government of Lebanon” and not to support any “faction” there, He said the marines as well as other members of the MNF — who include French, Italian and British units–were sent there to help the Lebanese government’s efforts for “national reconciliation” and the re-unification of the country.

CONTROVERSY OVER WAR POWERS ACT

Meanwhile, the increased authority for the marines is sure to add fuel to the controversy in Congress over the President’s refusal to invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Speakes said today that consultations are going on with Congress.

The White House reportedly wants Congress to approve a resolution backing the U.S. involvement in Lebanon, while members of Congress are seeking the more formal war powers resolution which would place a time limit on the marines’ involvement.

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