Israel's Cabinet formally set out today its terms for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, including a demand that the remaining Palestinian guerrillas in the country be the first to leave.
During the Cabinet meeting, according to Israeli radio, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his charge that the United States is hampering Israel's goal of achieving a peace treaty with Lebanon by deliberately preventing direct contacts between the Israeli and Lebanese governments. "One word from the United States and we'll have a peace treaty with Lebanon," Sharon was quoted as saying.
The radio report said the defense minister's accusations were criticized by several other Cabinet ministers.
In a communique issued after the Cabinet meeting, the Israeli government said it will continue to seek a peace treaty with Lebanon and called for immediate negotiations on the withdrawal of Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian forces from the country.
It said Israeli and Syrian troops should leave Lebanon simultaneously after the Palestine Liberation Organization pullout and after the return of Israeli prisoners and the bodies of soldiers killed during the war. It also said it will demand the establishment of unspecified "security arrangements" in southern Lebanon before withdrawing.
The Jerusalem Post reported today that the "security zone" Sharon wants created in Lebanon covers almost all the area now occupied by Israeli troops. Israeli officials have said that such a security zone need not continue to be occupied by Israeli forces, but that there must be guarantees to Israel that Palestinian fighters will not be allowed to infiltrate back into the area.
Shamir said last week that Israel would consider a simultaneous withdrawal of all forces from the country, but that was contradicted by a Foreign Ministry statement last Friday and by today's statement.
[United Press International reported that an Israeli soldier was wounded today when unidentified gunmen ambushed an Israeli patrol near Aley, the town east of Beirut where six Israelis were killed and 22 wounded in an attack a week ago.]
In the first reaction by a senior Syrian government minister to the U.S. plan, Information Minister Ahmed Iskandar told a group of foreign journalists that he found Reagan's plan "much more elaborate" than the Camp David initiative.
But he noted that former presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter had "demanded a homeland for the Palestinians," while the new plan ignored Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza.