WASHINGTON (Oct. 20)
President Reagan displayed again last night understanding, if not support, for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last year.
“With the border of Israel, the northern border being violated … by terrorist groups, innocent people there being killed, they had a responsibility to try and defend that border,” he said in his nationally televised press conference from the East Room of the White House.
The President’s remarks were made as he stressed that “great progress” had been made in Lebanon toward achieving stability there. Noting that the Israeli army has withdrawn to the Awali River and that Israel has signed an agreement with Lebanon to withdraw completely from that country, Reagan added, “We are doing everything we can to persuade Syria to quit being a roadblock in this process.”
STATUS OF THE 1982 PEACE INITIATIVE
Reagan stressed that his September I, 1982 peace initiative hinged on successfully resolving the situation in Lebanon, and reiterated his determination to maintain the U.S. marine force in Lebanon and to continue the diplomatic efforts there. “As long as there is a possibility of making the overall peace plan work we’re going to stay there,” he said.
Reagan stressed that Lebanon was the “first phase” of his Mideast plan and the U.S. still intends by “working with the more moderate Arab states to bring about the kind of peace with Israel that Anwar Sadat helped bring about. Our process is following the lead that was established in the Camp David talks and the two United Nations (Security Council) Resolutions, 242 and 338.”
SAYS SYRIANS ARE ‘DRAGGING THEIR FEET’
But Reagan made clear he believes that the Syrians have been “dragging their feet” and “aided and abetted by about 7,000 Soviet advisors and technicians and some pretty sophisticated Soviet weaponry, I think that they are contributing to the disorder and the trouble” in Lebanon.
He suggested that one reason for Syria’s behavior was that “they believe much of Jordan and much of Lebanon truly should belong to them” as part of a “Greater Syria.”
Reagan stressed that the U.S. would continue its diplomatic efforts in Lebanon but warned Syria not to prevent the effort toward national reconciliation in Lebanon. “I don’t think there is any way we should stand by and just let Syria destroy what so many people want, which is peace and order there in that troubled country,” he said.
When it was suggested that the Syrian roadblocks might be an effort to wear down his determination so that he will eventually pull out the marines, before Lebanon is unified, Reagan declared, “If they are doing it with the idea of wearing me down, they are going to be disappointed.”