Israel-lebanon Military Talks Bogged Down in Charges and Counter-charges

The Israeli and Lebanese military teams, meeting for their fifth round of talks in Nakura today, became bogged down in a series of charges and counter-charges that boded ill for a successful outcome of the negotiations that began on November 8. The next round of talks is scheduled for Thursday.

Responding to a Lebanese accusation that Israel was trying to sabotage the talks, Gen. Amos Gilboa, head of the Israeli delegation, told reporters he was “fed up”. He said the Lebanese were playing a “broken gramaphone record.”

The purpose of the talks is to reach agreement on security arrangements along Israel’s northern borders that would permit the Israel Defense Force to withdraw from south Lebanon. They are being held under United Nations auspices at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the Lebanese border village of Nakura.

RAPS LEBANESE CONTINUOUS COMPLAINTS

Gilboa said it was impossible to make progress under the Lebanese system of continuous complaints, which are aired over Beirut radio. A Lebanese spokesman charged that Israel was deliberately seeking a failure of the talks by demanding security guarantees in exchange for withdrawal. He accused the Israelis of wanting to remain in control of south Lebanon by employing “representatives and armed bodies” as surrogates for the IDF.

The spokesman complained that Israel expects by this means to extend its borders northward. He was referring to Israel’s insistence that the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a largely Christian militia commanded by Gen. Antoine Lehad and armed and supported by Israel, take charge of security in the zone immediately adjacent to the border after the IDF departs.

The Lebanese refuse to recognize the SLA and say they are insulted by Israeli statements that the Lebanese regular army is incapable of the security task.

Gilboa, who spoke to reporters when the meeting broke for lunch today, said the Lebanese are wasting time. He accused the head of the Lebanese delegation, Gen. Mohammed Al-Haj, of again “playing the broken record. He plays it each time from a prepared text, complaining that we are making the talks fail, that we do not move toward their position, etc, etc.”

“I told him (Al-Haj) plainly that I was fed up with this,” Gilboa said. “I pointed out that we have consistently presented concrete proposals for progress, but they always reject these and come up with their complaints.” He added that Gen. Haj, like a good soldier, was merely carrying out the political brief he had from Beirut.

ISRAEL SUFFERS 603RD FATALITY

Meanwhile, the IDF suffered its 603rd fatality since the Lebanon war began when a 40-year-old reserve staff sergeant died today of wounds he received in south Lebanon two weeks ago. He was identified as Sgt. Yehuda Cohen whose patrol was ambushed near Jimshit village on the eastern sector of the front close to Syrian lines.

A terrorist was killed in a clash with the IDF north of Ansar village in south Lebanon yesterday. There were no Israeli casualties.

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