WASHINGTON (Sep. 24)
The Reagan Administration appears to be taking a cautious approach to a reported Israeli request that the U.S. mediate between Jerusalem and Syria for an Israeli troop withdrawal from Lebanon.
State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said today that Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who went to Lebanon last week to investigate the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in east Beirut, is “taking advantage” of his presence in the Middle East to meet with regional leaders. Murphy, who met with President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon and Syrian President Hafez Assad, was in Israel today.
While Murphy was undoubtedly discussing the situation in Lebanon, he was not engaged in any negotiations, Romberg stressed. “Certainly we would like to be helpful,” he said. But, he added, any new move would have to have the support of all the parties.
The first indication of whether the U.S. would again become active in Lebanon may come after Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir meets with Secretary of State George Shultz in New York October 1, or when Premier Shimon Peres meets with President Reagan at the White House eight days later.
The new Israeli coalition government has made a pull-out from Lebanon and solving Israel’s economic crisis its first priorities. In fact, the two goals are the main reason Labor and Likud agreed to a coalition. In both areas, Jerusalem is expected to look to Washington for help.
Peres reportedly will ask the U.S. for $750 million-$1 billion in immediate economic aid beyond the $2.6 billion in military and economic assistance for Israel approved by Congress for fiscal 1985, starting October 1. The U.S. reportedly wants first to study Israel’s plans for cutting its budget.
Shultz, an economist, is believed to have made helping Israel’s recovery a personal goal. He has created a panel of outside economists to advise him on the merits of the Israeli plan. It is headed by Herbert Stein who was chairman of President Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers.