TEL AVIV (Nov. 15)
The troubled talks between Israeli and Lebanese military delegations resumed in Nakura today and immediately ran into a snag over the South Lebanese Army which is Israel’s chosen instrument to guarantee the security of its northern borders after the Israel Defense Force is withdrawn from Lebanon.
The Israelis were also hit by a demand by the Lebanese delegation that Israel pay Beirut $10 billion for war damage caused by the fighting in Lebanon and the 1,000 Lebanese they say were killed and another 1,000 wounded. There was no immediate reaction from Israel.
The Lebanese delegation flatly rejected the SLA and brushed aside suggestions that it be designated a territorial brigade of the regular army of Lebanon. They said they do not recognize either the SLA or its commander, Gen. Antoine Lehad. They proposed instead to deploy a large force of the regular army in the south to protect the borders.
The Lebanese were amendable to Israel’s proposal that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) be enlarged and assigned the security role further north, replacing the IDF in the Awali River sector.
SOME PROGRESS REPORTED
Gen. Amos Gilboa, head of the Israeli delegation, said after the meeting that some progress had been made, particularly on the positioning of some Lebanese army units south of the Awali River. The talks are scheduled to resume next Monday. They are mainly about security arrangements that would enable Israel to withdraw the IDF entirely from south Lebanon and are being held under United Nations auspices at UNIFIL headquarters in Nakura. They opened on November 8 when the two sides agreed to meet three times a week thereafter.
But the Lebanese government suddenly suspended the talks last weekend — two days after the first session — because Israel arrested four leaders of the Shiite Moslem militia, Amal, which has been harassing IDF units in south Lebanon. The Beirut authorities refused to negotiate further with Israel until the men were released.
Three of them were freed yesterday and there were indications that the fourth, Mohammed Fakih, the top leader of Amal, would be released shortly. Fakih had long been sought by Israel as the principal author of attacks on the IDF and has been under interrogation since his arrest a week ago. Israel had offered Amal a truce for the duration of the Nakura talks. This was rejected. The fact that three Amal men were released and the talks resumed indicated that some deal may have been struck.
But the Israelis have now been assailed by their own Druze and by anti-Shiite groups in south Lebanon for surrendering to pressure from Beirut to release the Amal leaders. The Druze and other non-Shiites regard Amal as their enemy.