INTRODUCTION: Prospects for a quick end to the Lebanese missile crisis appeared dimmer on Wednesday (20 May) as American envoy, Philip Habib prepared to set off again in search of a settlement.
GV Artillery piece in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon and truck passes a second gun. (2 SHOTS)
GV ZOOM IN Soldiers sitting talking.
GV SAM Missiles.
SV INT SYRIA: President Hafez al-Assad seated with translator and al-Assad talking, as newsmen look on. (4 SHOTS)
SV & CU Translator speaking as al-Assad listens. (2 SHOTS)
SV JERUSALEM: U.S. envoy Philip Habib gets out of car and enters Israeli Prime Minister Begin's office.
GV Newsmen outside office ZOOM TO CU Begin's office window.
SV Mr. Habib leaves office and comments.
SV Prime Minister Begin leaves office as newsmen wait. (2 SHOTS))
CU Mr. Begin speaking.
SPEECH ON FILM (TRANSCRIPT)
SEQ. 5: TRANSLATOR: "If the matter depends on us, I say there would be no war. But if the matter depends on Israel and its intentions, then the answer should be taken from Israel. We are in Lebanon in order to stop the civil war there.")
SEQ. 8: HABIB: "I really have nothing to say. The statement I made yesterday holds. The diplomatic effort continues. Thank you very much."
SEQ. 10: BEGIN: "I'm always optimistic. However, I can't tell you whether there will be a positive result of these talks, especially in the wake of a statement made by President Assad in Damascus to a press conference. Inter alia he said, he didn't get from Mr. Habib any American proposals, he got only Israel demands. First of all I would like to say that it is not an exact statement, to put it mildly, because the fact is that Mr. Habib brought American proposals to Mr. Assad, as I know he did. But the statement should be considered very extremist. It doesn't prove goodwill to solve the problem by peaceful means."
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Prospects for a quick end to the Lebanese missile crisis appeared dimmer on Wednesday (20 May) as American envoy, Philip Habib prepared to set off again in search of a settlement. Chances of progress appeared to have been set back when Syrian President Hafez al-Assad said he had not received U.S. peace proposals worked out by Mr. Habib, but had heard only Israeli demands that were 'outside any logic tradition'. In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin branded President Assad's remarks as untrue and extreme.
SYNOPSIS: The crisis began at the end of April and is centred here in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley where the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) and Palestinian groups have been involved in some of their most intense battles with Israeli-backed Christian Falangists. The ADF now essentially entirely Syrian, has thousands of troops in the valley. They're backed with SAM missiles, installed since two Syrian helicopters were shot down by Israeli warplanes in the area.
Syria's President Assad remains unrepentant about the introduction of the anti-aircraft missiles. He said on Wednesday the missiles are solely a defensive response to Israeli attacks, and accused Prime Minister Begin of wanting peace only on his terms. He also denied that Mr. Habib had presented an American proposal to defuse the crisis.
Mr. Habib continued his shuttle diplomacy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Special proposals from Washington, not officially disclosed, were said to include the withdrawal of the missiles in return for an Israeli undertaking not to fly over Lebanese territory close to the Syrian border. Mr. Begin, however, denies Israel has been asked to limit the flights, and at the end of the meeting, Mr. Habib was not prepared to comment on the delicate negotiations.
For his part, Prime Minister Begin insists Israel must maintain the flights over Lebanon for its security.