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Lebanese Army, Guerrillas Reportedly Agree on Cease-fire During Talks in Egypt

November 3, 1969
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The two-week conflict between the Lebanese Army and Palestinian guerrillas was reportedly scheduled to enter a cease-fire phase at midnight tonight (6 p.m.EST), a Cairo official announced today. The agreement to end the costly fighting was reportedly reached by Yassir Arafat, El Fatah chief, and Maj. Gen. Emile Bustani, Commander-in-Chief of Lebanese Armed Forces.

The official statement said the parties had decided “to halt all military operations….and halt all measures which resulted in the crisis….and which could lead to further tension. An agreement was also reached on continuing the search for the sake of reaching complete agreement on all points.” President Gamal Abdel Nasser had conferred with Arafat before the guerrilla chief met with Maj. Gen. Bustani. It was believed that the antagonists were considering a Lebanese offered 10-point plan that would give the commandos free movement in certain parts of Lebanon while not threatening Lebanese sovereignty.

The crisis was ignited by the Lebanese Army’s crackdown on guerrillas using southern Lebanon as a base for strikes into Israel. The guerrillas had demanded full freedom for their military operations but Beirut sought to curtail their activities out of fear of major Israeli reprisals. Egypt had functioned as a mediator in trying to resolve the conflict.

The reported cooling down in the crisis, the most serious in the Arab world since the 1967 war, came in the wake of a call by King Hussein of Jordan for an Arab summit conference to discuss establishment of a united Arab front against Israel. Opening the Jordanian Parliament yesterday, the King said, “Arab blood must not be spilled in any Arab country. No Arab guns should be fired except on the battleground against Israel.” King Hussein and President Nasser have called frequently in recent months for a summit parley to work out a unified military posture; a summit may be arranged when Arab military commanders confer in Cairo on Saturday.

While there was little fighting in Lebanon today, Syrian troops were reported massing near the Lebanon border in the wake of a Syrian Government denial that its troops were fighting with the guerrillas against the Lebanese. Damascus Radio said Beirut had issued such reports “in order to create an atmosphere convenient for the entrance of American troops into Lebanon.”


Meanwhile, Israel was contemplating the imminent increase of the maximum age for military reserve duty from 49 to 55. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said the action must be taken because of the “necessity for increased manpower in the defense forces and civil defense.” The move apparently reflects a strain on the country’s manpower reserves stemming from border activities and the need to cope with the internal security threat.

The Cabinet learned today of a serious deficit in the Government fund used to pay a percentage of the personal income of civilian reservists called to military duty. The fund is maintained with monthly payments contributed by job-holders and their employers and by self-employed persons, and allows a refund of up to 70 percent of normal income, not exceeding $200 per month, during the period of military service.

But owing to increased call-ups, the fund registered a $9 million deficit during the past fiscal year, and an additional deficit of $6 million was expected this year. A ministerial committee is trying to work out procedures for the future. The Cabinet decided that up to November the deficit will be covered from Finance Ministry reserves. According to unofficial estimates, income to the fund must be doubled to balance disbursements. Several ministers also want to raise the ceiling above $200 to meet rising prices. Many employers, including Government agencies, now contribute the difference between employes’ normal earnings and the payments made by the fund.

On the diplomatic front, diplomatic observers here interpreted Soviet Government remarks of Saturday as supporting recent Egyptian attacks on the United States and as strengthening the hands of guerrillas. They said that the official remarks were Russia’s first in two years specifically directed against the United States over the Mideast question and that this may have been the reason for Washington’s sharp reply.

Recent revolutions in the Sudan and Libya, as well as events in Lebanon, may have encouraged the Soviet Union, and in its remarks it sought to place itself clearly on the side of the Arab “progressives,” the sources said. But the Soviet comments were not taken as meaning that the Kremlin wants to break off talks with the U.S. over the Arab-Israel conflict; rather they were seen as having been designed to strengthen the Soviet position in the talks and to influence the positions of Britain and France if the Big Four talks are resumed. Leonid M. Zamyatin, head of the Soviet Foreign Ministry’s press department, said at a press conference that Russia was optimistic that the next Big Four talks would lead to a “comprehensive solution” of the conflict. He said that the Mideast crisis had been prolonged by U.S. support of Israel’s “obstructionist line.”

The spokesman blamed “the lack of tangible results in Soviet-American bilateral talks and in the Big Four talks thus far on an “unbalanced attitude” by Washington on a possible solution of the conflict. He said that the U.S. seemed interested only in finding a solution for matters that “concern Israel” and of leaving unresolved “problems of primary interest to the Arab states.” Mr. Zamyatin compared the Arab guerrillas to the Soviet and French partisans of World War II, saying the Palestinians were fighting a “just struggle.” He emphasized that the guerrillas were not receiving any Soviet aid.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman accused the Soviet Union of making “totally false” charges that maligned the American role in the Mideast, and questioned “whether the Soviet Government wants a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute.” The statement was issued following a meeting between Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin and Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Mr. Rogers reportedly told the Russian envoy about U.S. unhappiness over the Zamyatin charges.

State Department spokesman Robert McClosky said that the U.S. would like to resume Big Four talks but only when it was “possible and sensible” to do so; the time is not yet ripe, he indicated. He said that none of the Four were “delaying simply to delay” but were rather awaiting a more propitious time. Lord Caradon, British Ambassador to the United Nations, said this weekend that he expected the Big Four talks to resume “certainly within a week or two.” They have been recessed since last summer.


Joseph J. Sisco, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Mr. Dobrynin were slated to resume their bilateral consultations on Wednesday. American diplomats hope that when the Big Four get together again, they will make an effort to give UN Mideast envoy Gunnar V. Jarring a new mandate to bring to the Arabs and Israel. Diplomatic quarters in Jerusalem said they had no information that Dr. Jarring intended to resume his mission in the area, riding the circuit of the Mideast capitals. The diplomat is presently at his regular post as Sweden’s Ambassador to Moscow.

The Jerusalem sources said that in their last meeting, Dr. Jarring told Foreign Minister Abba Eban that he does not believe he can contribute anything to peace while the Big Powers are meeting in an attempt to reach an agreement among themselves. The sources said that Dr. Jarring interprets the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution as a mandate for him to bring the two sides to an agreement but not as a writ for a settlement to be imposed from the outside.

A French Government statement of last week that the Israel-Arab conflict caused the crisis in Lebanon was disputed by a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He asserted that the statement no more reflected the facts than did any conclusion that the Big Four talks could solve that crisis. He added that ever since Lebanon had become independent, Syria and other Arab states had caused incessant crises in Lebanon. He added that the welfare of Lebanon could be assured by the capacity of the Lebanese people to maintain the regime they wanted in a free and independent way without outside intervention, and by the Lebanese Government’s readiness to keep the peace on its borders with Israel and respect its cease-fire commitments.

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