August 29, 1983

We are shocked and grieved by the deaths of the U.S. marines in Lebanon. They died while serving the United States in its efforts to help the Lebanese Central Government restore order to the greater Beirut area. We condemn those who are responsible for the continuing violence, which has claimed many victims, including our own marines. Our forces are there at the request of the Government of Lebanon in helping to provide security for the Lebanese people. Once more we call on all elements to end this senseless violence and unite behind the Lebanese Government to restore national harmony.

The President was informed this morning at 1:55 a.m. Pacific time at the ranch by national security adviser Bill Clark. This notification took place 1 hour and 6 minutes after the incident occurred in Beirut. The President expressed profound sorrow, terming the death of two U.S. marines as tragic. The President paid tribute to the courage of the marines in their role as peacekeepers. The President will shortly speak by telephone to the families of the two marines, expressing his and Mrs. Reagan's personal condolences and sorrow.

The President this morning has conferred by telephone with Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, as well as Bill Clark. At the President's direction, a national security group, composed of representatives of the departments and agencies most involved in this matter, was convened in Washington this morning. The purpose was to review the current situation in Beirut and to make additional recommendations on the U.S. role in continuing to pursue the peaceful withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

The President directed a meeting of the administration's most senior officials be convened this afternoon in Washington to continue the review. I would anticipate the President will confer with the Vice President following that meeting.

In the Middle East, Ambassador McFarlane continues his mission. He is in Beirut today. His goal is to negotiate with all groups in Lebanon to facilitate a peaceful withdrawal of all foreign forces. The President has directed his staff to inform the congressional leadership and the chairmen and ranking members of the Armed Services Committees and the Foreign Relations Committee members on the situation.

Note: Deputy Press Secretary Larry M. Speakes read the statement concerning the death of S/Sgt. Alexander M. Ortega and 2d Lt. Donald G. Losey at his daily press briefing in the briefing facility in the Sheraton Santa Barbara Hotel in Santa Barbara, Calif.