WASHINGTON (Sep. 14)
The Reagan Administration was apparently hoping today that yesterday’s White House announcement that the marine commanders in Lebanon can order defensive air strikes will result in a quick cease-fire between the Lebanese army and Syrian-backed Moslem groups.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, said the intensive negotiations now going on could bring about a cease-fire within the next 24 to 48 hours.
While noting that “predictions are always risky,” State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said today that “there is a proposal on the table which should satisfy the legitimate requirements of all parties.”
Romberg would not go an into details, but he did reveal that special envoy Robert McFarlane was in Damascus today while his deputy, Richard Fairbanks was in Beirut. State Department sources said that the parties involved are the various Lebanese factions who must come to some kind of cease-fire agreement that will lead the way to national reconciliation.
In this context the officials said that Syrian approval of a cease-fire agreement is “essential” since the Syrians back the various groups, including the Druze, that are now fighting against the Lebanese army.
The officials also noted that Palestinians are also participating in the fighting against the Lebanese army. Iranians and the Libyans who are also lined up against the government of President Amin Gemayel, are involved in the cease-fire negotiations.
Israel is apparently not directly involved either and Romberg refused to reveal any discussions that have been going on with the Israelis about the situation. But it was reported in Israel today that the Gemayel government through the U.S. asked Israel to use its planes against the troops firing at Beirut from the Shouf mountains, recently evacuated by Israel, and Israel refused.
Meanwhile, Romberg stressed that the decision to allow the marine commanders to call up air strikes if the marines or the other troops of the multinational force are attacked was not a “threat.” He also pointed out that air strikes are not “automatic” if a British, French or Italian unit is attacked. He said it will only be used if the commander of the attacked MNF force feels it is necessary.