U.S. Skeptical over Report That Saudi Arabia is Calling U.S. Troops to Withdraw from Lebanon

The State Department expressed skepticism today that Saudi Arabic is calling for the withdrawal of U.S. marines from Lebanon according to a statement attributed to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah flon Abdulaziz.

“That is not our understanding of the Saudi position,” Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said. “And it’s certainly not what Crown Prince Abdullah said in his January 29 meeting with distinguished American visitors to Saudi Arabia.”

Romberg added, “The Crown Prince recognizes fully that a U.S. withdrawal now would harm the U.S. reputation and tarnish that of its friends. Saudi Arabia has told us that it supports the request of the government of Lebanon for the multinational force presence and we understand that remains the Saudi government’s position,” White House spokesman Larry Speakes at first declined to comment on the reported statement, but then said, “I’ll bet when it all comes out, the full context won’t be quite that startling.”

The official Saudi news agency, SPA, quoted Abdullah today as saying, “A withdrawal of all invading forces, Israeli and American troops as well (from Lebanon) will have to be carried out as soon as possible. There is not the least doubt that Syrian forces will pull out after that.”

He added, “I do not understand the role played by the U.S. marines in Lebanon … If these American ships and forces came to repulse the aggressor (Israel) and force him to withdraw, they would have been welcomed.”

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