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Shamir: Habib Unsuccessful in Efforts to Get Syria to Remove Its Missiles from Lebanon

December 7, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Cabinet today that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib has made no progress in his efforts to persuade Syria to remove its SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles from Lebanon.

Shamir, who met with Habib here last Friday, said he informed the American envoy that Israel would give him more time to pursue his mission but that its patience had limits. On a radio interview over the weekend, however, the Foreign Minister set no deadline beyond which Israel would take action to remove the missiles itself. “Habib is on his way, but the way is still long,” Shamir said.

Habib went to Jordan after his stopover in Israel and was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today, apparently trying to re-enlist Saudi support to consolidate the shaky cease-fire in Lebanon.

Shamir indicated that he didn’t think the American envoy would succeed in his broader objective of bringing peace to the area, but said he would be given every chance, at least by Israel. He said Habib’s trip to Amman was connected with Jordanian efforts to prevent terrorists from acting against Israel from Jordan territory.


The impasse with Syria remained unbroken. Habib was first sent to the region by President Reagan last May to prevent an outbreak of war over the missile deployment in Lebanon. He returned this month to try to convince the Syrians to offer some minor concessions to reduce the tension, such as replacing Syrian units in the Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon with units from other Arab countries.

The Syrians refused and Israel, for its part, made it clear that it would not accept any more Arab troops in Lebanon, even if they replaced the Syrians.

The Syrians are, if anything, more adamant over the missiles since Israel signed its strategic cooperation agreement with the U.S. last week. Official organs in Damascus described the U.S. as “the number one enemy of the Arabs.” They added that unless fundamental changes are made in American policy, Habib could make “a thousand futile trips to Damascus.” The missiles, according to the Syrian sources, are not negotiable.


Shamir, in his radio interview, denied that Israel had made any “compromise” when it agreed to a joint statement with the U.S. on European participation in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai. He said the agreement was a very important political achievement for Israel.

“It made clear to the Europeans and others as well that Israel was a factor to be taken into most serious consideration in any discussions on the Middle East,” Shamir said. He said that the visit to Israel by French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, beginning tomorrow, was in preparation for the visit by President Francois Mitterrand early next year. Both of those visits and scheduled visits by other European leaders indicated an improvement in Israeli-European relations, Shamir said.

He claimed that these developments reflected the foreign policy achievements of the Likud government during the past four years.

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon also met with Habib last Friday. He complained to the American that the terrorists have violated the Lebanese cease-fire 40 times since it went into effect last July.

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