JERUSALEM (Sep. 20)
Brian Urquhart, the United Nations Undersecretary General, is winding up a Middle East tour here with meetings with top Israeli officials, dealing mainly with the situation in Lebanon.
The UN official conferred last night with Premier Shimon Peres and this morning with Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He meets with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin later today. He will also meet Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Levy. Informed sources said Urquhart is anxious to discern whether there is any shift in Israel’s attitude toward the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since the Labor-Likud unity government replaced the Likud-led regime. The UN has long advocated an expanded role for UNIFIL in south Lebanon, enabling Israel to pull its forces out. The UNIFIL mandate comes up for renewal by the Security Council on October 19.
The Israelis have always been dubious of UNIFIL’s ability to maintain security in south Lebanon and prevent the infiltration of terrorists bent on attacking Israel. Israeli sources said today that Jerusalem is still not prepared to rely exclusively on UNIFIL and wants the South Lebanon Army (SLA) to continue its security role in the border region.
Nevertheless, there are indications that Peres and Rabin are ready to consider an expanded role for UNIFIL. If it is allowed to deploy in a larger area than it presently patrols it may be able to act more effectively to prevent hostile element from penetrating to the Israeli border.
Both Israeli and UN officials here were disturbed by an Agence France Presse report from Holland today which quoted President Chaim Herzog of Israel as saying that negotiations were already underway with Urquhart toward an Israeli pull-out from south Lebanon. The officials said Herzog’s remark was at best premature. Urquhart visited Amman, Beirut and Damascus before coming to Israel.