WASHINGTON (Dec. 1)
President Reagan reiterated today the U.S. commitment to the May 17 Israel-Lebanon agreement as the best way to achieve progress in Lebanon.
“We stand by the May 17 agreement as the best and most viable basis for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon,” Reagan said in bidding farewell to Lebanese President Amin Gemayel with whom he had met for nearly two hours at the White House. “Once again, I appeal to the other external forces to leave Lebanon,” the President said.
Gemayel, in his remarks, did not mention the May 17 agreement. He said only that in his talks with Reagan “We found ourselves in full agreement on the necessity of withdrawal of all external forces from Lebanon and the full restoration of the Lebanese sovereignty and exclusive authority over all of Lebanon’s territory within its internationally recognized borders.”
Neither Gemayel nor Reagan, who expressed U.S. concern about Syria in his public remarks after his meetings with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir earlier this week, mentioned Syria by name today.
Reagan stressed that “Lebanon can count” on U.S. support in its efforts to achieve national unity and sovereignty over its territory. He said the U.S. marines in Lebanon as part of the multinational force, “demonstrate the strength of our commitment to peace in the Middle East.”
Praising Gemayel’s “personal courage”, Reagan told the Lebanese President, “Your efforts to broaden the base of your government bringing in Lebanon’s many communities would do much to rebuild a stable, prosperous Lebanon. It will do much to restore confidence in the future. It will do much to stop the loss of so many innocent lives.”
The President said Gemayel had achieved a “measure of success” through his “effective leadership” in the first round of the national reconciliation talks held recently in Geneva. But the talks were adjourned so that Gemayel could come to Washington, apparently to seek U.S. approval for some changes in the May 17 agreement — which he did not receive.
However, Reagan noted that his special representative, Donald Rumsfeld, who had returned from his first mission to the Middle East to participate in the Shamir and Gemayel visits, will be going back to the area soon to help in the efforts to remove all foreign forces from Lebanon and in the process of national reconciliation.