Israeli and Lebanese military teams held their third round of talks at Nakura today but failed to narrow the gap between their respective positions on the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon and future security arrangements along Israel’s northern border.
Gen. Amos Gilboa, head of the Israeli delegation, told reporters after the meeting that he had stressed to the Lebanese that until suitable security arrangements are made, the IDF will stay in Lebanon. He also made it clear that Issael would make no concessions, such as the release of prisoners it holds in south Lebanon as long as attacks on the IDF continue.
THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES
The major difference between Israel and Lebanon on security is who will police the border once the IDF withdraws. The Lebanese delegation, headed by Gen. Mohammed Al-Haj, flatly rejected that role for the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) and proposed that the regular Lebanese army take over in the south.
But a spokesman for Al-Haj said today that Lebanon could not act as Israel’s policeman in the south and is obliged only to provide security for the Lebanese population there.
Israel places no trust in the Lebanese regulars’ ability to protect the borders from terrorist attacks on Israel and insists that Gen. Antoine Lehad’s SLA be assigned the job. Israel also wants the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be enlarged and made responsible for security north of the border zone, in the Awali River sector. The Lebanese are amenable to that proposal.
ISRAEL REJECTS LEBANESE DEMANDS
Israel was astonished, when the negotiating teams met at Nakura last Thursday, to be hit with a Lebanese demand for $10 billion in war reparations from Israel. Israel rejected this out of hand and a spokesman for the Lebanese delegation said later that agreement had been reached to confine the talks to the security and military level.
Israel also rejected Lebanese demands that it release about 1,000 prisoners from the Ansar detention camp and that it reopen communications between south Lebanon and the rest of the country. The crossing points between the regions are manned by the IDF which restricts traffic for security reasons.
An Israeli military spokesman said today there would be no prisoner release and no opening of the cross points as long as attacks on the IDF continue. A Katyusha rocket was fired at an IDF position near Yadkin village in south Lebanon only this morning. There were no casualties.
The Israel-Lebanon talks, which were months in arranging, got off to a troubled start. Opening under United Nations auspices at UNIFIL headquarters in Nakura on November 8, they were suspended by the Beirut government two days later to protest Israel’s arrest of four leaders of Amal, the Shiite Moslem militia that has been harassing the IDF almost daily, causing casualties and damage.
A second meeting, to have been held November 12, was cancelled. The Israelis subsequently released three of the Shiite detainees. The talks were resumed last Thursday and the fourth Amal leader, Mahmoud Fakih, was freed on Friday.
After today’s session, which apparently got nowhere, it was announced that the two teams will meet again on Wednesday.
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