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Shut-down of Israel’s Liaison Office in Lebanon is Imminent

Israeli officials are expecting momentarily formal notification from the Lebanese government that it is shutting down the “Liaison Commission”, the quasi-diplomatic mission Israel has maintained at Dbaiyah, 10 miles north of Beirut, since shortly after its invasion of Lebanon in June, 1982.

The Commission was widely regarded as the forerunner of formal Israeli diplomatic representation in Lebanon, fortified by the withdrawal and security agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel on March 17, 1983. But when President Amin Gemayal officially abrogated the pact last March, the Commission’s legal status became uncertain as did its future.

According to reports from Beirut, the Lebanese government ordered the mission closed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, presided over by Prime Minister Rashid Karami. Karami instructed Defense Minister Adel Osseiran to withdraw all Lebanese personnel from the mission. Israeli officials said today that the long rumored shut-down now appears to be “for real.”

They said that while not surprised they were concerned over how Israel can maintain contacts with Lebanese officials in the future. Such contacts are important in the context of Israel’s eventual withdrawal from south Lebanon, they said.

(In Washington, the State Department said today that it has no confirmation of reports that Israel has been notified that it has to close its liaison office in Lebanon, But Department spokesman Alan Romberg said, “If those reports are true, this would be regrettable. The liaison office in Dbaiyah provides a useful mechanism for communication between the governments of Lebanon and Israel and for solving practical problems which we have constantly urged.”)

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