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U.S. Keeping Low Profile at the Lebanese Reconciliation Talks

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The Reagan Administration is keeping a low profile at the second national reconciliation conference of the various factions in Lebanon that began in Lausanne, Switzerland, today. “There is no U.S. participation in the talks at Lausanne,” State Department spokesman John Hughes said. He added that a political officer from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was present in Lausanne.

At the first reconciliation meeting, held in Geneva last October, U.S. special Mideast envoy Richard Fairbanks was present and was frequently consulted by the participants. Fairbanks, recently named an Ambassador-at-Large, is believed to be concentrating on other matters, principally the Iran-Iraq war. President Reagan’s principal envoy to the Middle East, Donald Rumsfeld, has no plans to go back to the region any time soon.

After Lebanon abrogated its May 17, 1983 agreement with Israel under pressure from Syria on March 5, a condition for today’s meeting in Lausanne, Secretary of State George Shultz and other State Department officials made clear that it is up to the Arabs who supported the abrogation to come up with alternative plans for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the return of that country to full sovereignty over all of its territory.

The U.S. is not expected to take any new initiative on Lebanon until it sees the results of the present discussions. In fact, the Administration’s attention now seems to be focussed on the Iran-Iraq war and its threat to the Persian Gulf. Hughes said today that a victory by either side would not be good for the “stability” of the region.

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