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U.S. Ambivalent About Reports That Lebanese Christians Might Break Their Ties with Israel

July 8, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The State Department was ambivalent today about reports that the Lebanese Christians might break their ties with Israel.

Department spokesman Dean Fischer had a “no comment” when he was asked about a news report that a Phalangist militia leader Bashir Gemayel announced that the Christian group would sever its ties with Israel. Fischer said the U.S. would welcome any move that reduced tensions in Lebanon and that if a Phalangist break with Israel “led to a reduction in tension” the U.S. “would regard it as a hopeful sign.”

The Arab League committee which has been credited with the easing of tensions in the Christian village of Zahle reportedly has been urging the Phalangists to break ties with Israel from which it receives military supplies.


Meanwhile, Fischer said that Philip Habib, President Reagan’s special Mideast envoy, will return to the region this week although he could not confirm that he is leaving today. Habib met with Reagan yesterday to discuss the situation in Lebanon resulting from the tension caused by Syria’s placement of SAM-6 antiaircraft missiles in Lebanon and Israel’s threat to remove them by military force.

Fischer said he “was not aware” of a reported threat by Israeli Premier Menachem Begin that if the missiles were not removed within two weeks, Israel would act. He noted that Begin’s spokesman, Uri Porat, had denied the report which was broadcast by CBS News yesterday.


Fischer continued to affirm that the Reagan Administration will complete its “review” by July 17 of whether Israel violated an arms agreement with the U.S. when it used American-made planes to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor June 7. He repeated that he expects the review to be completed before a “decision has to be made” on six F-16s scheduled to be delivered to Israel July 17.

A decision will presumably also be made on whether to lift the suspension on four F-16s that had been scheduled to be delivered to Israel in June but were held back pending the review.

Fischer said that no decision has been made on whether the Administration will present to Congress its proposal to sell Saudi Arabia five AWACS reconnaissance planes and other military equipment. The Administration is holding up submitting the proposal on the advice of Senate Republican leaders who fear it may be rejected by Congress.

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