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Ronald Reagan Administration: Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on Violence in Lebanon and Reduction of Embassy Staff

(June 6, 1982)

The President has summoned Ambassador Philip Habib to Versailles to discuss the Middle East situation. At the President's direction, Ambassador Habib will come at 3:30 this afternoon, where he will meet in the President's suite with the President and Secretary Haig.

Ambassador Habib's mission, as outlined by the President, will be to offer the assistance of the United States Government in the cause of peace in the Middle East.

During this meeting, the President will discuss the current escalation of violence in the Middle East and will determine Ambassador Habib's role in the coming days at the conclusion of the meeting.

In connection with the escalation of violence, the United States Government has ordered a reduction in force of U.S. Embassy personnel in Beirut. In the next 72 hours, all dependents will leave, and an Embassy staff of approximately 50 will be reduced by one-half.

The President last night sent a personal letter to Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel expressing the President's hopes that the Government of Israel would seriously consider that no further action be taken that could widen the conflict.

We have made similar appeals to every government in the area with some influence over the situation or the parties which have been engaged in the fighting. I would characterize it as we have pulled out all stops to bring about an end to the fighting and a restoration of the cessation of hostilities which was arranged by Ambassador Habib in July of 1981.

We have strongly supported the call by the United Nations Security Council and the Secretary-General for a cessation of the hostilities at dawn this morning. We continue to be deeply and profoundly concerned by the mounting loss of lives caused by this ongoing spiral of violence and counterviolence.

We renew our call on all parties to refrain at once from further violence. We continue to call on all with influence on the parties to exert all their efforts to effecting a speedy end to this tragic violence. We will continue to confer closely with all parties to bring an end to the fighting. I can assure you we're exerting ourselves to the utmost to restore peace to the region.

Sources: Public Papers of the President