WASHINGTON (Sep. 25)
The State Department warned Thursday that the increasing return to Lebanon of Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists will increase the tension in the already volatile south Lebanon.
The reason for the recent Israeli raids on terrorist bases in Lebanon is believed to be based on evidence that Palestinian terrorists, driven out by Israel in 1982, are infiltrating back closer to Beirut and the coastal highway that links the city with southern Lebanon. There have been reports that there are as many as 8,000 Palestinians in various parts of Lebanon.
Asked about this Thursday, State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said, “There have been reports over the past several years that Palestinian fighters of various factions, taking advantage of continued civil strife, have been drifting back to Lebanon.” He said he could not confirm if the 8,000 estimate was correct.
“Obviously the return to Lebanon of armed personnel, of whatever faction, can only damage the prospects for ending the cycle of violence,” Redman added. “It cannot help efforts to restore Lebanese unity, sovereignty and independence and to bring about national reconciliation.”
VIEW OF SYRIA’S AND IRAN’S ROLES
On a related issue, Redman appeared ambiguous over whether the United States supported Israel Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s charge that Syria and Iran were behind much of the violence in south Lebanon. “Damascus and Teheran have criticized the Israeli presence in south Lebanon,” he said. “Both have expressed support for attacks on Israeli forces and on the South Lebanon Army.”
At the same time, he noted that Syria has “expressed its support” for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) while Iran opposes UNIFIL.
“Our position is clear,” Redman said. “Support for acts of violence are harmful to efforts to achieve stability in south Lebanon. The cycle of violence there must end and there should be a settlement.”
The U.S. position on south Lebanon is that the parties to the conflict must reach an agreement that will ensure stability for south Lebanon and security for northern Israel. This position was restated Tuesday when the U.S. abstained from a UN Security Council vote calling on Israel to withdraw all its forces from south Lebanon and to allow UNIFIL to extend its activities to the Israeli border.