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MIDDLE EAST: The White Hats Arrive

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In a short-lived spirit of celebration, Lebanese gunmen fired volleys of shot into the air instead of each other last week. With cheers and a flash of “V” signs, they welcomed a convoy of more than 50 freshly whitewashed trucks as it rumbled into Beirut’s airport. Carrying a peace-keeping force of some 1,000 white-helmeted Arab League troops, the convoy was a signal for the withdrawal of an equal number of Syrian soldiers, who had been shelling leftist-Palestinian strongholds in Beirut since the Syrians took over the airport three weeks ago. Half of the Arab League troops, who are trying to enforce a cease-fire between Syrian troops and various Palestinian factions, were Libyan. The other half were fresh Syrian replacements. But the withdrawal of Syria’s regular brown-helmeted troops seemed more cosmetic than real; they pulled back only slightly from Beirut into positions from which they could easily advance again.

The use of Syrian troops to keep peace between other Syrian troops and the leftist Palestinians seemed a shaky solution, but the limited cease-fire remained intact at week’s end. It did not, however, bring any real peace to Lebanon because the agreement, negotiated by Libyan Premier Abdul Salam Jalloud, did not extend to the country’s warring leftist Moslem and rightist Christian forces. On the day the Jalloud agreement was announced last week, rightist forces launched a savage attack on two Palestinian camps in the predominantly Christian eastern section of Beirut. More than 150 were killed and well over 200 wounded in one of the bloodiest weeks of Lebanon’s civil war. If the Christians should take over the well-defended refugee camps, they will have carved a de facto province of their own that extends from eastern Beirut to the northern port of Jounieh and into the mountains farther east.

Heavy Pressure. As the interminable warfare continued, the Egyptian and Syrian Prime Ministers met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to try to at least paper over the feud that has strained relations between their two countries since Egypt signed the interim Sinai agreement with Israel last September. The quarrel over the Sinai forced Egypt and Syria into somewhat artificial opposition over Lebanon. After the Syrian intervention, it ironically appeared that the

Syrians had backed the Christian rightists while Egypt came out apparently on the side of the leftists. Under heavy pressure to reconcile from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, whose economic assistance is vital to both feuding countries, Egypt and Syria now seemed ready to patch up their differences. The Prime Ministers agreed to stop hostile propaganda against each other, to resume full diplomatic relations, to form a joint commission for working out a strategy toward Israel, and to arrange a summit conference between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Syria’s Hafez Assad.

In Cairo, meanwhile, the Arab League met again to discuss the Pan-Arab peace-keeping force, which should eventually number 6,000, and voted it a budget of $12 million for the next six months. The Arab League Secretary-General, Mahmoud Riad of Egypt, said that he had ordered a Sudanese contingent to go directly to Beirut and that Somali and Saudi Arabian units would be arriving shortly in Lebanon.

A third caucus over Lebanon was called by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who summoned the ambassadors from four Arab capitals to Paris for a meeting last week. Joining the group was Talcott Seeyle, 54, a longtime Arabist and former ambassador to Tunisia, whom President Ford appointed “special representative” to Lebanon after the murder of Ambassador Francis E. Meloy Jr. (TIME, June 28). The fact that Ford named Seeyle special representative instead of ambassador led to speculation that Washington intended to shut down its embassy in Beirut. White House officials said it was simply a means of circumventing the nomination process in order to get Seeyle to Lebanon as quickly as possible.

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