WASHINGTON (Jan. 26)
President Reagan said last night that “we are making progress” in Lebanon and asserted that the U.S. marines stationed in Beirut as part of the multinational peacekeeping force will not be driven out of Lebanon by “state sponsored terrorism.”
In his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Reagan declared: “There is hope for a free, independent and sovereign Lebanon. We must have courage to give peace a chance. And we must not be driven from our objectives for peace in Lebanon by state sponsored terrorism.”
Reagan said he would soon propose legislation to help “combat terrorism” and would seek support from other nations to help in this endeavor. “It demands international attention,” he said in the nationally televised speech.
DEMOCRATS QUESTION REAGAN’S ASSERTION
Democratic leaders, however, questioned Reagan’s assertion that progress was being made in Lebanon toward achieving national reconciliation among the various warring factions, and toward the eventual withdrawal of all foreign forces from that country.
In a program broadcast nationally immediately following Reagan’s address, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said “I don’t see that progress” in Lebanon. Rep. Dante Fascell of Florida, echoed Biden’s comment, saying, “I don’t see it or know of anyone who has.”
Biden, along with House speaker Thomas O’Neill of Massachusetts, noted that Reagan’s speech devoted little attention to the marine presence in Lebanon. Biden said. “The President in a 10-page speech devoted one paragraph to Lebanon.” He also said it was “time to bring those marines back and it’s time for us to have a coherent foreign policy.”
O’Neill was joined by a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders who met at the White House yesterday afternoon with Reagan to discuss Mideast policy and other issues. O’Neill clashed sharply with the President on the continued presence of the marines in Lebanon and called Administration policy “simplistic.”