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Deny Knowledge of Any Accord Having Been Reached with Syria

December 1, 1976
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Officials here said today that they had no knowledge of any agreement having been reached with respect to southern Lebanon. They were responding to reports from Washington that Syria has agreed not to send its troops into southern Lebanon which would be handed over to Lebanese units, possibly with token reinforcements from other Arab countries.

The officials said they believed American sources were drawing conclusions from contacts in the region and were prematurely projecting them into the future. But they agreed that there was a good chance of some arrangement materializing since the situation in southern Lebanon has not changed and neither Syrian nor terrorist units are known to have entered that region. They said contacts aimed at a settlement were being continued through the U.S. Israeli officials believe the U.S. supports Israel’s position that Lebanese troops should be in charge of southern Lebanon.

A close reading of the Israeli position indicates that Jerusalem would probably agree to small numbers of troops from the inter-Arab peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon to help maintain law and order. But Israel insists that Lebanese units must be the dominant factor there and that the number of other Arab soldiers be restricted to a level that would not endanger Israel’s security.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials expect that the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights will be extended tonight despite a last minute snag. The mandate expires today. Syria announced 10 days ago that it would agree to a six-month extension. But yesterday it demanded that the Security Council’s resolution renewing UNDOF include a statement calling for immediate political moves in the Middle East.

Israeli sources explained that this was not a substantive problem because Israel is always ready for peace moves. Israel would not object to a statement by the Security Council to that effect but it will not play into the hands of Syrian propaganda, the sources said.

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