Mini-summit pledges to stay in Lebanon
La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France
Despite the attack Sunday on French and American troops, the four nations present in the multinational force have decided to continue their present policies in Lebanon: The force will stay, its size will remain the same, and its role will continue to be pacific, not offensive.
These decisions were taken Thursday when the foreign ministers from the United States, France, Britain, and Italy met in a chateau here just south of Paris.
With the other three ministers at his side, French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson said the four governments would not be deterred by terrorist attacks. ''The peoples of our countries have accepted these sacrifices'' so that peace can be established in Lebanon, Mr. Cheysson said.
The hope is that the rival Lebanese factions can reconcile their differences at a conference opening in Geneva next Monday. ''The deception will be large for our countries if all the parties in Lebanon do not make the utmost effort to establish peace,'' Mr. Cheysson said.
But what will they do if no agreement is reached at Geneva, a great possibility according to American and French officials here?
One option seems to be for the United Nations to involve itself more directly in Lebanon. Mr. Cheysson said, ''The United Nations will have a growing role to play.'' This followed a call Wednesday from French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy for a UN force to play a role in supervising the latest cease-fire.
American officials did not take issue with this French desire to see greater international involvement in efforts to resolve the Lebanese conflict. But they said even the French admitted that such a solution was a long way off and that the present peacekeeping force would stay for an undefined, and probably long, period of time.
So the immediate question is how to protect the troops. The foreign ministers decided that the separate units in the force would cooperate more closely in the future. High-ranking military officers from each of the four countries have been sent to Beirut to discuss security measures.
Beyond this, the door was left open for retaliation against further attacks. American officials confirmed that reprisals for Sunday's attack were discussed, but they refused to give details.
All four participants seemed satisfied with the results of the mini-summit. American officials said the ''atmospherics'' were good, and that the four nations shared ''a commonality of views.''
But privately, French officials said before the meeting that the four foreign ministers could do nothing to change the essential quandary facing the peacekeeping force. As French officials put it, there are no good solutions.
Leaving would make Lebanon even more of a battle-ground for the regional powers and would be a disaster for Western influence in the region. But, as Sunday's attack showed, enforcing peace through peaceful means in a war-torn country is also not a easy task.