Secretary of State George P. Shultz today urged the Soviet Union "to get on the side of peace" and use its influence to help bring about withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
Shultz made his appeal at a news conference following a meeting here of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But most of the questions were about the peace agreement negotiated by Shultz last week between Israel and Lebanon.
Implementation of the accord depends on the willingness of Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization to pull their forces out of Lebanon. Israel has made such a withdrawal a precondition for taking its troops out of southern Lebanon.
However, the Syrian government, like the PLO, has rejected the Israeli-Lebanese agreement, although it is unclear whether modifications to the accord will make it acceptable to them. Syrian President Hafez Assad has refused to say whether he will honor a Lebanese request for removal of all foreign forces.
Shultz, who is seeking to mount a campaign of pressure and persuasion on Syria from the Arab world and other countries, was asked what role he thought the Soviets might play in settling the Lebanon crisis. He replied:
"I don't have an idea of what advice the Soviets are giving to the Syrians. I have seen an article in Tass attacking the Israeli-Lebanese agreement. So they've made their view clear."
He then noted that the casualties suffered by Lebanon as a result of its civil war and the Israeli invasion would, if transposed to a scale applicable to the population of the United States, mean a toll of dead and injured "on the order of 10 million." He added:
"I would call on the Soviet Union to take another look and get on the side of peace . . . . Let them come forward and join the peace process."
Shultz made clear, however, that he was not advocating a direct role for the Soviets in the Middle East peace process either as a mediator between the contesting sides or as part of a larger international approach.
"I mean they the Soviets should join others in calling for the Syrians to leave Lebanon," he said.
The secretary said that, despite the hostility being directed at the agreement by Syria and the PLO, he was encouraged by the support it has received from such Arab countries as Jordan and Egypt.
Shortly before the news conference, he conferred with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and said that Aziz had authorized him to say that Iraq also supports the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. However, Iraq and Syria are bitter enemies within the Arab world.