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News In Brief

October 24, 1983



Paris

Top French official flies to Beirut to inspect rubble

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French Defense Minister Charles Hernu flew to Beirut Sunday to inspect firsthand the damage from the explosion at the headquarters of France's peacekeeping forces. Twenty-seven soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded, according to reports. Mr. Hernu described the attack on French troops as ''odious and cowardly.'' A Foreign Ministry official said that the entire eight-story building in south Beirut had been destroyed.

There has been growing frustration in France as the Lebanese situation has deteriorated. Even before the latest attack, French casualties had been high: some 17 dead and 40 wounded. Questions have been raised about the safety of French troops and about whether France is going to be dragged into an American war to limit Syrian influence in Lebanon.

The Sunday bombing probably will not shake this French resolve, Foreign Ministry officials said. ''Leaving now would justify attacks like this,'' one official explained. Top advisers to President Francois Mitterrand had been saying the same thing in private: Attacks on French troops will not force them to withdraw. They said they will increase their firepower against Syrian and Druze attackers instead of pulling out. Whether they will do this in the wake of the latest attack is unknown.