Situation in Lebanon Assessed
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Situation in Lebanon Assessed

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Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens indicated today that while Israel believes that the negotiations over the removal of the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists from west Beirut cannot go on “indefinitely,” the decision on whether Israeli troops will move into the Lebanese capital may depend more on whether the United States loses patience with PLO stalling than on Israel.

“Even though we may be convinced that the PLO is not negotiating seriously,” there are three partners to the negotiations — Lebanon, the U.S. and Israel, Arens said in an interview on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley” program. “We have to get to the point where the United States also comes to the conclusion that the negotiations are going no place,” the Israeli envoy said.

But Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, in an appearance on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press,” said the U.S. would not approve an armed invasion of west Beirut or anywhere else. “We are trying to avoid that” he said. “That’s why we are spending so much time in the negotiations.”

Both Arens and Weinberger refused to say whether an August I date, reportedly mentioned by President Reagan’s special envoy Philip Habib who is conducting the negotiations in Beirut, was a deadline for the talks. Arens said that if there was a deadline, it would serve no purpose in stating it publicly. Weinberger said the date was probably the minimum time required for the PLO to leave Beirut and for the Israeli and Syrian troops to begin their evacuation of Lebanon.


On the ABC program, the Lebanese Ambassador to Washington, Khali I Itini, said that he had been given reliable information that “a final agreement should emerge in the next few days, if not the next two days.”

But Sens. Christopher Dodd (D. Conn.) and Carl Levin (D. Mich.), who were interviewed from Tel Aviv on the same ABC program, said the PLO was stalling. Dodd said that Yasir Arafat, head of the PLO, was playing for the time in order to gain political advantage.

The two Senators, who were scheduled to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said they would urge him to give Habib more time. Levin said that Israel should not go into west Beirut but that if force is needed to remove the terrorists, the Lebanese army should do it.

Dodd noted that in their talks in Lebanon they found that everyone wanted the PLO out. He noted that there was a hatred for the PLO and pointed out that the destruction of Lebanon did not start with the Israeli action in June but had been going on for seven years because of the PLO’s involvement in Lebanon.


As for the use of U.S. troops in Beirut, Weinberger stressed that the negotiations are now centering on bringing them into the country at a “minimum risk” to the Americans, probably marines from the Sixth Fleat. He said that their only purpose will be to see that the PLO leaves the country and that should only take a few days. He denied that by doing this, the U.S. would be helping to “salvage” the PLO.

“Our special objective in all of this has been to try to restore Lebanon to its sovereignty so that its borders are secure and so that it can’t be used either as a platform for attacks on other countries or be invaded on a constant state such as has been the case for the post few years, “Weinberger explained. He said that the U.S. troops would not remain until Lebanon regains full sovereignty, something he conceded would take a long time.

But Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who supported the possibility, of U.S. troops before he went to the Middle East last week, said he opposed it now. He said he found in Lebanon so many different factions among the PLO and the Christians, “more factions than combinations to the Rubic Cube,” he now feels the U.S. force will now be the target of some groups. He also expressed the fear that the U.S. would have a prolonged stay in Lebanon and end up as “yet another force” in the complicated situation.

Levin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he believes that if negotiations were successful, a limited U.S. operation could be carried out.


But Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said today in an interview on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program that opposition was rising both in Congress and the American hinterland to Israel’s actions in Lebanon. He predicted that Israel’s incursion into Lebanon could turn out to be its “Vietnam.”

Percy said that the Begin government had once again in Lebanon broken a pledge to the U.S. that it would not undertake major Mideast moves affecting American interests without informing Washington first. “I feel most strongly about what I consider a pledge broken, a pledge between partners and friends” that there should “be no surprises between Israel and the United States.”

Percy added: “I thought we had reached agreement on that particular point. But once more — for maybe a dozen times in a row — we have been utterly disappointed.” He noted that for the first time in Israel’s history there was dissention in that country about the conduct of a war. “It could turn out to be Israel’s Vietnam,” he said.

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