Israel sees Lebanon safety zone

Israel is determined to maintain a security belt in southern Lebanon, irrespective of whether a peace treaty is signed between the two countries, government officials said.

They were commenting on a speech Monday by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, in which he said Israel would establish a ''special status'' for southern Lebanon if no treaty were signed. He did not specify the security arrangements he had in mind. But in similar remarks on Israel radio over the weekend he said they need not require the presence of Israeli troops. This was seen here as a reference to right-wing Lebanese militiamen who have controlled the turbulent border region with Israeli support for several years.

In response, the government officials reiterated the government line that Israel had no territorial ambitions in Lebanon and that a peace treaty was not a prerequisite for a military withdrawal.

In London, US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said the Israelis told him they did not intend to maintain a security belt in southern Lebanon.

The Palestine Liberation Organization reported from Damascus Tuesday that it had captured the eight Israeli soldiers who disappeared in central Lebanon last Saturday. They are being held as prisoners of war, the PLO said.

A PLO military spokesman said that the soldiers were being well treated and that the International Committee of the Red Cross had been informed of the incident. Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon demanded immediate return of the Israeli soldiers; he said Syria would be held responsible for their disappearance. The incident was seen as a major obstacle for President Reagan's Mideast peace initiative.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.