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Reagan Willing to Increase the Number of Marines in Lebanon to Speed Departure of Foreign Forces

February 18, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Reagan said last night that he would be willing to increase the number of marines in Lebanon as well as having them patrol areas outside of Beirut if that was the “key element” to speed up the departure of foreign forces from that country.

But Reagan, answering questions in a nationally televised news conference from the East Room of the White House, denied that this was one of the proposals special envoy Philip Habib had taken back with him to the Middle East.

Reagan said that because of the “difficulty in getting the present forces of the PLO, the Syrians and the Israelis out of Lebanon, ” he would be “willing to go along” with an “increased redeployment” of the marines. But he stressed that such a move would have to come about in consultation with the Italian, French, and British, who along with the U.S. make up the multinational force (MNF) in Lebanon as well as other countries that might join the MNF.

The President’s remarks were a slight change in Administration policy which up till now has maintained that it would consider increasing the number of marines and their areas of deployment only after an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces was reached. But Reagan stressed last night that “I think it will be well worth it” because it is “too great an opportunity to finally bring peace to the Middle East for us to let this go by.”

However, he added that there would be no change in the mission of the marines which he said is to be a “stabilizing force” while Lebanon recovers from a “long period of warlords with their own armies” and “establishes its sovereignty over its own borders.”

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