TEL AVIV (Jan. 22)
The Israel-Lebanon talks were resumed at Nakura today with the Lebanese offering to accept the deployment of United Nations forces along the Awali River on condition that Israel provides a detailed timetable for the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force to the international border and allows the Lebanese army to take over from the IDF in Sidon where the Israeli pull-out is already underway.
Those demands coincided with Lebanese charges that Israel was responsible for the car-bombing in Sidon Monday which killed two Lebanese and wounded a dozen others, including Mustafa Saad, leader of the Sunni Moslems. A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Jerusalem called the charge “a down-right lie.”
LEBANESE BRIEFED ON ISRAEL’S WITHDRAWAL PLAN
At this morning’s meeting in Nakura, Gen. Amos Gilboa, head of the Israeli delegation, briefed the Lebanese on Israel’s three-stage withdrawal plan which the Cabinet approved eight days ago. The first stage calls for a pullback from the Awali River line and Sidon and its environs to a new line along the Litani River. Israel estimates it will be completed by February 18.
The second stage will remove the IDF from the northeastern sector of south Lebanon and the final stage will bring it to the international border and out of Lebanese territory. No timetable has been set for the latter two stages although unofficial estimates say they could be completed within 6-9 months.
The Israelis have insisted that the area evacuated in the first stage be turned over to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to patrol. The Lebanese had stubbornly opposed this until today’s session at Nakura when they made their conditional offer.
The Lebanese claimed that the withdrawal from the Awali River line and Sidon was not a withdrawal but a “redeployment” of the IDF, intimating that without a timetable for the rest of the operation they could not trust Israel to remove its forces entirely from Lebanese territory.
At the end of the session, the Lebanese asked Israel to coordinate the pull-out from Sidon with the Lebanese army so it could take over from Israeli troops there. The Lebanese delegates said the Beirut government would meet tomorrow for a further discussion of the IDF pullback and a detailed response would be given the Israelis on Thursday.
ISRAEL BLAMED FOR VIOLENCE IN SIDON
The charge that Israel was responsible for the eruption of violence in Sidon was elaborated by Prime Minister Rashid Karameh who contended that the car bombing was part of an attempt by Israel to sow local sectarian strife after the IDF leaves Sidon.
Violence has escalated in Sidon and in Beirut this past week, mainly between the rival militias of the Shiite and Sunni Moslems.
Israel has warned of a possible bloodbath after the IDF withdraws from Lebanon and made it clear it would be the direct responsibility of the Lebanese government. Israel will not be the policeman for Lebanon and intends to get out as quickly as possible, commemsurate with its security needs, spokesmen in Jerusalem have said.
Reporters from Sidon who covered the Nakura meeting today said the IDF withdrawal from the coastal town has been speeded up. Most soldiers are already out and equipment is being dismantled and trucked to Israel at an accelerated pace.