U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib, winding up a five-stop Middle East shuttle designed to stabilize the cease-fire on the Israeli-Lebanese border, said today he has found a common interest in Israel and Arab countries for maintaining quiet on the frontier.
After meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Habib declined to discuss details of his week-long round of negotiations, but he said it is clear that all sides are interested in keeping alive the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization forces in southern Lebanon. Habib arrived here yesterday from Saudi Arabia after visiting Beirut, Damascus and Amman.
Shamir, according to a spokesman, said Israel is interested in diluting a PLO arms buildup in southern Lebanon and ending the Syrian influence there. But, Shamir was reported to have stressed to Habib, Israel will not attack across the border unless it is attacked first.
Israeli sources said that Habib appeared to have found in the Arab capitals he visited a consensus that an outbreak of hostilities for the time being is unlikely.
The arrival in Riyadh yesterday of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, just after Habib left, touched off speculation here that Habib may have persuaded the Saudis to use their influence over Arafat to reinforce the cease-fire. Saudi Arabia is believed to have been instrumental in the cease-fire mediated July 24 by Habib and U.N. peace-keeping officials. Arafat had been attending an Islamic conference in Jeddah that had been convened to seek an end to the Iraqi-Iranian war.