Lebanon's Cabinet, meeting as Israeli warplanes buzzed Beirut in a mock air raid, called today for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanese territory, and specifically for the pullout of Israeli invasion forces.
The Cabinet, in an apparent attempt to regain its vanishing political influence in the wartorn country, also called for the "assistance of a multinational force" to oversee the evacuation of Palestinian guerrillas.
But while the Cabinet called for Israel to comply with U.N. resolutions and withdraw the invasion force that entered Lebanon on June 6, no agreement was reported on specifics of the entry of the proposed multinational force or the withdrawals by troops of Israel, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
President Reagan has imposed specific conditions under which he would send U.S. peace-keeping troops, one of them being that Lebanon officially ask for such a force.
Meanwhile, PLO leaders reported some progress in negotiations on a political settlement in Lebanon and expressed satisfaction with statements yesterday by Secretary of State-designate George Shultz referring to "the legitimate needs and problems of the Palestinian people."
Shultz, in the second day of Senate hearings on his nomination, said Wednesday that the PLO "is one claimant to participation in peace negotiations," but he said it would not be acceptable unless it renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Charles Percy (R-Ill.) said at the hearing that a "high-level friend of the United States," whom he did not identify further, had confirmed that the PLO was prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist, The Associated Press reported.
A close political adviser to Arafat, Hani Hassan, praised Shultz's statements and called him "a courageous man." Hassan said Reagan's choice for secretary of state was "speaking from his conscience."
"We appreciate what he said in Congress," Hassan said after a meeting with former Lebanese prime minister Saeb Salam, a key negotiator. "We hope Shultz could reach a point where he can sit together with the PLO and discuss the questions of the area to bring the Middle East into a peaceful era." He said he felt a change in U.S. policy toward the Palestinians was in the offing and that he hoped it would "develop and continue."
But another senior PLO official, who refused to be identified, said Shultz's statement "doesn't go far enough." He said Shultz was still talking in terms of the 1978 Camp David framework for Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which he said was strongly opposed by most Palestinians.
"Shultz has to realize that the whole Camp David approach is wrong," the official said. He called this issue more important than the question of recognizing the PLO.
Beirut's leading newspaper columnist, Michel Abu Jaudeh of the daily An Nahar, said Shultz's remarks have given the negotiations in Beirut "a glimmer of hope." But he warned against too much optimism.
The Israeli mock raids, lasting for about two hours at midday over the besieged western half of Beirut, were the first Air Force activity over the capital in nearly two weeks.
The planes repeatedly swooped low over Palestinian neighborhoods and camps in West Beirut and its southern suburbs, drawing fairly cursory antiaircraft fire, as the Lebanese Cabinet held its first meeting in three weeks at the Baabda presidential palace in the Israeli-occupied hills southeast of the city.
Discussions among American, Lebanese and Palestinian negotiators on the withdrawal of Palestinian guerrillas to avert a threatened Israeli assault on West Beirut have been stymied by a dispute over when the international force should come in and the refusal of Syria to accept the guerrillas as previously planned.
Lebanese negotiators have said that a major sticking point is Habib's insistence that the force enter Beirut after, rather than before, a Palestinian withdrawal from the city has been completed or is well underway. The PLO demands the introduction of the force beforehand to insure the safety of the evacuation and to protect Palestinians remaining behind in camps.
PLO leader Yasser Arafat has told the Syrian government that the PLO would like to move to Syria if an agreement can be reached on evacuating the guerrillas from Beirut, informed sources said yesterday, according to Reuter. Palestinian sources, according to Reuter, said they believed Syria was ready to bargain over its position. But the sources said little progress could be made before a proposed visit to Washington by foreign ministers Abdel Halim Khaddam of Syria and Prince Saud Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Salam reported "some small progress" in negotiations on proposals to introduce French troops before the departure of the Palestinians and the arrival of U.S. Marines offered by President Reagan. But details of the proposal--and the attitude of U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib--remained unclear.
After conferring with Salam in West Beirut, Arafat told reporters, "Definitely there is progress." But he declined to elaborate.
While the sixth cease-fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces generally continued to hold today, some relatively minor clashes were reported.
Shooting broke out this afternoon between Palestinian and Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints at the Beirut port about 300 yards from each other, but it had tapered off by early evening.