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Habib May Return to Mideast, but No Date Has Been Set

November 17, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The State Department, which has been saying that Philip Habib, President Reagan’s special envoy for the Middle East, will return to the Middle East soon, still has set no date for his departure.

Department spokesman Dean Fischer said today that Habib will probably go back to the Mideast by the end of this month although no date has been set. He said if the U. S. thought there was an “urgency” which required his departure sooner, he would leave earlier. Fischer stressed that the U. S. is “monitoring the situation very closely” in Lebanon but said there was no urgency there now.

The spokesman conceded that the Arab summit conference in Morocco this month could “conceivably be one of the factors” the U. S. is considering before sending Habib back, “but only one of the factors.”

Habib, who retired in 1980 as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, was sent to the Mideast by Reagan last May to calm the tension caused by the Syrian placement of SAM-6 missiles in Lebanon and Israel’s threat to remove them by force. In July, after Habib helped establish a cease-fire across the Lebanese Israel border, his mission was expanded to include the entire situation in Lebanon.

Israeli Premier Menachem Begin, said recently that while Israel supports the Habib mission, it was promised by the envoy, in Reagan’s name, that the missiles would be removed from Lebanon.

Yasir Arafat, chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization, reportedly said in a speech on Saturday that Israel was expected to attack his terrorist forces in Lebanon soon. Arafat also rejected proposals by the United Nations to increase the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 6,000 troops to 7,200 and that the PLO forces remove its artillery from the Tyre area.

Fischer seemed to support both UN requests, although he said he had only read press reports of the Arafat statements. “We believe the cease-fire in south Lebanon is in everyone’s interest,” he said. “We therefore would hope that all involved would be responsive to and supportive of efforts by the UN to strengthen it.” He also stressed that respect for the cease-fire included a ban on armed attacks into or from the area of south Lebanon controlled by Maj. Saad Haddad’s Christian militia force.

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