Can US pry foreign troops from Lebanon?
The question of how to get foreign troops out of Lebanon goes to Washington this week.
And central to this is Israel's demand for an adequate military buffer zone on its northern border.
Top United States officials will look over proposals being carried by visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir Oct. 14. Then, on Oct. 19, Lebanon's new President, Amin Gemayel, is scheduled to meet President Reagan and other American officials.
The Israeli plan calls for a 25- to 35-mile security zone above Israel's northern border, policed by Lebanese Army soldiers, not by international peacekeeping forces, and free of heavy artillery. It demands this guarantee before its troops are withdrawn.
The sticking points: Israel will insist on a key role in the security zone for Maj. Saad Haddad, leader of the Israeli-backed Lebanese militia forces along Israel's border. Major Haddad's continued role is opposed by both the Lebanese government and the United States as a hindrance to the reestablishment of a strong central authority in Beirut.
Israel also wants a written security agreement from the Lebanese government pledging that Lebanese territory will not again be used as a base for hostile activities. The Israelis will also request some kind of joint Israeli-Lebanese commission to supervise implementation of the security arrangements.
Both items would be viewed here as important signs of normalized Israeli-Lebanese relations in lieu of a peace treaty, which Israel still desires but has decided to play down for now.
Following his meeting Thursday with US Secretary of State George Shulz, Mr. Shamir is scheduled on Friday to see Vice-President George Bush and, according to reports from Washington, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.
Shamir will be discussing a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, which now seems less of a problem than it originally appeared. Israel at first insisted that Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) troops, estimated at from 6,500 to 10,000, leave east and north Lebanon before an estimated 30,000 Syrians and 70,000 Israelis quit the country. But Foreign Minister Shamir indicated in a recent US television appearance that prior PLO withdrawal was not mandatory, thus leaving the way open for an American proposal of staged simultaneous withdrawal by all forces.