WASHINGTON (Oct. 17)
The Reagan Administration charged today that the U.S. marine contingent in Lebanon was being “targeted” by groups seeking to “undermine the national reconciliation process” in that country.
But State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg refused to “speculate” on which group or countries were responsible. Reports from Lebanon quoted marine officers as saying that Palestinian terrorists had fired on the marines. Wadi Hadad, Lebanese President Amin Gemayel’s National Security Advisor, after meeting with President Reagan last Friday indicated that Syria was trying to undermine the reconciliation process.
The firing at the marines, which killed one marine last Friday and another last night, reportedly came from areas held by Shiite Moslems. But State Department sources said that even if one pinpointed the area from where the “sniping” came from at the marines, it still did not mean that the group in control of that area was responsible for the shooting.
The Administration’s comment today came after the marine was killed and three others were injured in the vicinity of the Lebanese university. The marine, Capt. Michael Ohler, 28, Of Huntington, L.I., was the sixth killed in Lebanon in recent weeks.
REGRET SENSELESS LOSS OF LIFE
“We profoundly regret this senseless loss of life and are disturbed that the MNF (multinational force) continues to be the target of attacks which are aimed to undermine the national reconciliation process that is underway in Lebanon,” Romberg said.
“We commend our marines for their dedication and exemplary performance in a difficult and trying situation and urge a cessation of these pointless attacks against those who are in Lebanon to serve the cause of peace.”
The Administration maintained today that the attacks will not cause the U.S. to pull out its forces from Lebanon. White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said the marines will stay there “as long as the President thinks it’s necessary.”
Romberg stressed that despite the sniper attacks on the marines, and what he said were isolated incidents of fighting between the Lebanese army and other groups, “basically the cease-fire is holding” and the Lebanese government is “moving ahead with the reconciliation process.”
The U.S. diplomatic effort in Lebanon is also continuing, Romberg said. Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s special envoy far the Middle East, is in Washington and is not expected to return to Lebanon soon since he is expected to be named National Security Advisor to replace William Clark. But McFarlane’s deputy, Richard Fairbanks, is still in Beirut.
Romberg said that because the national reconciliation process is underway in Lebanon the Administration feels this is a good time to begin a top level review of its Mideast policy to “look at where we are and where we are going.” But he stressed that it is a review in small not “capital letters.”