Beirut — The United States has upped its stakes in its pursuit of stability in Lebanon with the return of US marines in a Beirut-based multinational peacekeeping force , Monitor correspondent Warren Richey reports.
The return of the marines to Lebanon may help the Reagan administration's credibility in the Arab world, but their deployment here is also a risk for Washington, should the Americans be somehow caught up in an outbreak of fighting.
Tension in west Beirut has eased since the deployment earlier this week of the Italian and French contingents of the peacekeeping force.
Col. James Mead, commander of the US contingent in the multinational force, said the 1,000 marines at the airport would in the days ahead extend 4 to 5 miles into the area north of the airport, with some Lebanese Army units. The Americans, he said, would eventually link up with the southern deployment of Italian troops.
After about 200 marines were landed and stationed at Beirut Port Wednesday, the main body of marines was airlifted by helicopter from the USS Guam, anchored off the coast. They were flown directly to the international airport.
There had been concern the Israelis might not give up their position at the airport before the US forces arrived. Lebanese Army sources said the Israelis moved out about 2:30 p.m. - around the time the marines were beginning to arrive.
Lebanese officials said the airport was scheduled to open Thursday for commercial flights.