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White House Statement on the President's Meeting with Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir of Lebanon

June 24, 1988

The President was pleased to meet today with Maronite Catholic Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir of Lebanon. The Vice President also met separately with Patriarch Sfeir. The President and the Vice President reaffirmed U.S. support for the restoration of Lebanon's unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. Both emphasized that the suffering of the Lebanese people must end and that a process of national reconciliation is urgently needed, including agreement on political and security reform. They also recognized that durable peace and security for Lebanon can best be assured by a comprehensive peace settlement for the Middle East and pledged the continued efforts by this administration on the peace process.

The United States considers the upcoming Lebanese Presidential election to be very important for Lebanon's unity and stability. The election should proceed constitutionally, with a new President taking office as scheduled on September 23. It should also be orderly so that a smooth, legitimate transition can occur. The election provides an excellent opportunity for national reconciliation and should be seen in that light. In this context, the United States has responded to the request of Lebanese leaders to help Lebanese Moslems and Christians devise and agree upon a new arrangement for sharing political power. We are convinced by our conversations with these leaders that responsible Lebanese want to find fair guidelines for a process to establish a central government that exercises full authority over a unified, sovereign state. In that state, all Lebanese would enjoy comparable opportunities for advancement. The United States believes an agreement on such guidelines is possible and ought to be achieved as soon as possible.

The United States is particularly concerned about the plight of innocent civilians in Lebanon. The tragic casualties from the recent fighting between rival militias in Beirut's southern suburbs and from terrorist bombings and the continued taking and detention of hostages, both Lebanese and foreign, demonstrate the urgent need to restore the authority of the central government throughout the country. Only the central government has the clear, unencumbered right and responsibility to maintain law and order. The continued existence of armed militias and terrorist groups frustrates the desire of the vast majority of the Lebanese people to have the legal order and authority reestablished.

The Lebanese and American peoples have had a long and close relationship. Out of that friendship emerges both our deep concern about Lebanon's future and our enduring commitment to help the Lebanese ease their suffering and achieve national reconciliation. To those ends, the United States pledges both continuing humanitarian assistance and political support.