Defense Minister Ariel Sharon has turned down an opportunity to reappear before the Israeli board of inquiry that is investigating the massacre of Palestinian refugees in West Beirut, the panel announced tonight.
Sharon and four other senior Israeli officials who have been warned they may be harmed by the investigation's conclusions replied today to invitations from the board to reappear for new testimony, submit new evidence or cross-examine other witnesses.
Another four Israeli officials who received similar warnings, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin, replied to the invitations last week. Begin, like Sharon, turned down the chance to testify again but submitted a letter to the commission reiterating his assertion that the Israeli government had no reason to believe that a massacre might result from its decision to allow Lebanese Christian militia units to enter the refugee camps.
Sharon, who is widely viewed here as one of the most vulnerable figures in the investigation, said he will submit no new information to the inquiry board unless it uncovers additional evidence requring a response from him.
In contrast, the other four officials whose replies were made public tonight all said they have more to say. Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Yehoshua Saguy and Sharon's personal assistant, Avi Dudai, each asked to reappear before the inquiry board and to cross-examine other witnesses. The director of Israel's intelligence service, who by law cannot be named in public, asked to submit new written evidence and to cross-examine one witness.
The names of witnesses who will be cross-examined were not made public.
The inquiry board, which has said it wants to expedite the investigation, may begin recalling the officials for new testimony as early as next week.