WASHINGTON (Sep. 21)
The Reagan Administration fired off its sharpest criticism to date of Syria’s role in the current Lebanese crisis which Secretary of State George Shultz charged today was blocking efforts for a cease-fire and national reconciliation in that country.
Shultz, appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and later before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Syria of failure to honor its commitment to pull its troops out of Lebanon, of permitting armed Palestinian groups to enter the regions recently evacuated by the Israeli army and thereby of responsibility for the continued presence of Israeli troops on Lebanese soil.
Syria, the Secretary of State declared, is using its influence in Lebanon to obstruct national reconciliation and “indeed … has instigated political opposition within Lebanon and armed several factions engaged in military actions against the legitimate government.”
Shultz appeared before the Congressional foreign policy panels to support a resolution that would allow U.S. marines to remain in Lebanon for another 18 months. This is a compromise between the Administration which wants a free hand in Lebanon with no time limit and many members of Congress who have insisted that the President invoke the 1973 War Powers Act which would give Congress authority to order the marines out of Lebanon in 60-90 days.
DEFINES U.S. ROLE IN LEBANON
The Secretary defined the U.S. role in Lebanon as helping to create “a kind of equilibrium” that would encourage a cease-fire leading to political accommodation and the ultimate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. He warned that to pull out the marines now would jeopardize those objectives.
Shultz angrily criticized French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson for saying several days ago that France, a participant in the multinational force in the Beirut area, dissociated itself from the U.S. decision to allow the marines to call for air and naval support if they were endangered by gunfire from anti-government forces. That decision has been broadened to include a U.S. response to gunfire against the Lebanese army, even if the marines are not in danger.
“The French Foreign Minister made what I would consider a very flamboyant statement,” Shultz said. He contended that Cheysson seemed “to position himself between what he described as the U.S.-Israeli forces and the Soviet-Syrian forces. I don’t think it was a particularly helpful statement, very frankly.”