Secretary of State George P. Shultz today described Israel as demanding far more in security measures and normalization than Lebanon is willing to accept, and said that the United States is still struggling to close "big gaps" between the the two parties in their negotiations.
On the first day of a 12-day Asian journey following a Washington policy review on the Middle East, Shultz discouraged any idea that a strikingly different U.S. approach to the slow-moving Lebanese talks is in the cards.
State Department aides said U.S. emissary Philip C. Habib is to return to the Middle East in about a week with a set of instructions that is still under formulation in Washington. Habib will make another try at accelerating an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, described by Shultz as the first step toward withdrawal of all foreign forces.
In an airborne press conference flying west over the Pacific, Shultz described the issues in ways that seemed to distance the United States from Israeli positions, even though he acknowledged a basis for Israel's views.
He noted, for example, that "so-called normalization" being sought by Israel in bilateral relations with Lebanon was "not part of the announced rationale for going into Lebanon in the first place." Shultz added that peace between Israel and all its neighbors is a "desirable objective" in the U.S. view but said that such questions as the "legitimate concerns and rights of the Palestinians" are important.
Regarding physical security for Israel, Shultz said there is a convergence of views that appropriate arrangements should be established as "a real insurance policy" that southern Lebanon will not become again the base for cross-border attacks.
"The real question is what does it take to do that, and how do you do that, not whether it should be done," said the secretary of state. He expressed his own view that the aim can be achieved "with appropriate sovereignty for Lebanon" but added that there is "a big difference of view as to what is necessary."
In talks completed Friday in Washington, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak placed much emphasis on the importance of a prompt resolution of the differences, said Shultz. But he added that "it is a situation in flux. It's obvious we are struggling with it."
Shultz made several references to the inability of the United States to obtain acceptance of ideas and solutions it has in mind.
Asked if he is among those who believe the problem would be solved by "lowering the boom on Israel," Shultz responded: "Well, I don't think that forcing people to do things that they believe is against their interests produces lasting solutions to problems."
He went on to say, "I don't think it will produce a lasting solution for Israel to force Lebanon to do something that Lebanon feels deeply is not in its interest." At another point he said Lebanon has identified sovereignty, control of its territory and the development of its relations with other Arab states as key elements of its position.
Shultz said the United States is giving priority attention to the Israeli-Lebanese negotiations because Syria says it will withdraw when the Israelis do, and the United States has "good grounds" for believing that Palestine Liberation Organization forces will withdraw alongside the Syrians.
Shultz landed here late this afternoon to prepare for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and other top officials Monday and Tuesday before flying to Peking for four days of discussions with Chinese leaders.
Shultz described the Tokyo talks as a continuation of the discussions with Nakasone and others during the Japanese leader's recent Washington visit. In Peking, he said, he will seek to place Sino-American relations "on a stable, sound and developing basis."