WASHINGTON (Nov. 7)
The Reagan Administration rejected today any proposal to renegotiate the May 17 Lebanese-Israeli agreement for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. “We think it is a good agreement, carefully negotiated,” State Department spokesman John Hughes said. He noted it was the basis which would lead to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.
At the same time, Hughes said the U.S. believed “progress” was made at the meeting of Lebanese leaders in Geneva last week which adjourned Friday after apparently getting President Amin Gemayel to agree to seek a renegotiation of the agreement. Pressed to explain what he meant by progress, Hughes said that there was progress because the various leaders who had fought each other had met and then had agreed to meet again. The second round of the Lebanese national reconciliation talks is scheduled to resume November 14.
Gemayel reportedly was planning to come to Washington to meet with President Reagan to discuss possible changes in the Israeli-Lebanese agreement. But Hughes said that while the Lebanese President was always welcome there was no plan for such a meeting at this time. Reagan is scheduled to leave tomorrow for the Far East.
URGES RESTRAINT AND PRUDENCE
Hughes also cited what he called progress toward Lebanese national reconciliation in urging “restraint and prudence” upon the Syrians who reportedly called up their reserves today and were believed to be reinforcing their troops in Lebanon.
On other matters, Hughes said that the U.S. “understands” why Israel closed off south Lebanon from the rest of Lebanon after the terrorist bombing of the Israeli headquarters in Tyre Friday. He expressed the belief that the close-down would be of a “short duration.” (See related story, P.I.)
Hughes also expressed “concern about the threat to the innocent persons in the camps and in Tripoli itself who are caught up in the fighting” between the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasir Arafat and dissident Palestinians backed by the Syrians and the Libyans. “The United States does not see how the fighting is likely to lead in any practical sense to helping the Palestinian people achieve their legitimate rights,” Hughes said.
But he stressed the U.S. concern was for the non-combatants, so it apparently does not cover Arafat who appears about to lose his last military outpost in Lebanon.