NEW YORK (Sep. 25)
A cease-fire between warring factions in Lebanon was welcomed by President Reagan here today. The President, in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow, told reporters he had telephoned Lebanese President Amin Gemayel to congratulate him.
Reagan also thanked Saudi Arabia which he said had a “very definite hand” in the success of the cease-fire negotiations which have been going on for several weeks. Syria, too, he said “is evidently cooperating.” Only last week, Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz angrily accused Syria of obstructing efforts to end the fighting in Lebanon.
There is still a long way to go to achieve a political settlement in Lebanon and in the Middle East generally, the President said after a meeting with UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, but, he added, “We’re all very happy for this step that has come about.” He called the cease-fire a “first step” toward a settlement in Lebanon.
SYRIANS ENCIRCLE PLO FIGHTERS
Meanwhile, reports from Beirut today said that Syrian forces surrounded about 1,000 Palestine Liberation Organization fighters loyal to PLO chief Yasir Arafat and ordered them to surrender their arms. They were ordered two days ago to move out of their positions in the Syrian-held Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon, the report said.
The order apparently applied only to members of the PLO El Fatah group loyal to Arafat who the Syrians expelled last June. Syria continues to back PLO elements rebelling against Arafat’s leadership and arms and supports the Palestine Liberation Army which reportedly has been fighting alongside the Shouf mountain Druze against the Lebanese army and the Christian Phalangists. Today’s cease-fire reportedly applies to those antagonists.
Despite the announcement of the cease-fire, however, U.S. marines came under heavy mortar and shell fire at Beirut Airport more than an hour after the cease-fire was announced. Earlier in the day, two marines were wounded by sniper fire and flying shrapnel at the airport.