The Beirut government may look to a U.N. peacekeeping force as a means of getting Israel and its allied South Lebanon Army out of southern Lebanon.
It is expected to try when U.N. Undersecretary-General Marrack Goulding meets government officials in Lebanon next week. He will also visit Syria and Israel.
Goulding will discuss the mandate of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which expires July 15.
The Security Council, which reviews UNIFIL every six months, is expected to extend the life of the nine-nation peacekeeping force it established in 1978.
But President Elias Hrawi of Lebanon would like its area of operations expanded to include the areas presently controlled by Israel and the SLA, reports from Lebanon said.
UNIFIL sources promptly expressed doubt that such a change is feasible.
The Lebanese, however, are expected to be persistent in their search for international support.
Hrawi’s Syrian-protected Lebanese army now exercises effective control over southern Lebanon, except for the regions patrolled by the lightly armed UNIFIL and the heavily armed Israel Defense Force and SLA.
The SLA — trained, equipped and financed by Israel — polices the southern Lebanon security zone, a 6-mile-deep by 50-mile-long buffer zone established by Israel in 1985 to protect its northern settlements from terrorist attacks.
The SLA, in addition, controls a Maronite Christian enclave north of the zone, centered on the town of Jezzine.
While Beirut is anxious to oust the Israeli and allied armed forces from Lebanese soil, it has been silent about the Syrian troops, who occupy much more extensive areas of Lebanon, including the Bekaa Valley in the east.
The Lebanese army says it has succeeded in its mission to disarm the various factional forces that have turned southern Lebanon into a perpetual battleground for the past 16 years.
From Israel’s point of view, the most dangerous of them is the Palestine Liberation Organization. While the PLO was forced to surrender its positions in the port towns of Sidon and Tyre, it remains entrenched in the crowded Palestinian refugee camps near both cities.
In an obvious face-saving ploy, PLO chief Yasir Arafat announced from Tunis that his forces were “donating” their medium and heavy weapons to the official Lebanese army.
Israelis say he was attempting to create the impression that the PLO is cooperating voluntarily with the Lebanese forces, which until now have been considered ineffectual.
The PLO fighters, nevertheless, have been allowed to retain small arms and personal weapons to guard the refugee camps. Their number is estimated at 10,000.