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Tuesday, 20 September 1983
Page: 968

Mr PUNCH —Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen reports of an escalation of fighting in the Lebanon? Has he also seen reports that the United States Navy has shelled military targets, including those in Syrian controlled territory, and that Syria has threatened retaliation? Can the Minister inform the House whether these reports are correct? Can he also indicate to the House the Government's attitude to the growing crisis in the Lebanon?

Mr HAYDEN —My understanding is that the reports are correct. They are cause for great care and concern on the part of the Government to monitor the developments as they occur. There is, quite clearly, within these developments the potential for the conflict to assume greater, indeed international, proportions, although this does not necessarily follow. In those circumstances it is a situation which we are observing with the greatest of care. The tragedy is that Lebanon has been ill- fated in history to stand at the cross-roads of other people's ambitions. Once again she is tortured and punished as others play out their ambitions in this sadly divided land. I would not care for anything I am saying, have said before or may say later, to be interpreted as being aimed at diminishing the internal confessional problems which affect the Lebanon, but the fact is that the self-serving motives of outside influences are exacerbating differences there, inflaming tensions and conflicts and lifting them to a very crude and lethal level. There are a number of objectives which we believe should be put in place to allow Lebanon to search out its own destiny alone as a united country.

Before it can do that, we believe these things have to be achieved: All foreign troops should be withdrawn from Lebanon, except those who are there on the genuine invitation of the Government of Lebanon and for the purposes of allowing the Government of Lebanon to re-establish political, social and economic stability through the exercise of effective military and police presences; there should be a termination of the arms flows from outside to non-government forces; there should be an exercise of restraint between the various parties in conflict internally in Lebanon, leading to a ceasefire; there should be a reconciliation conference of confessional leaders; there should be a large scale humanitarian relief program supported internationally to allow Lebanon to re-establish itself socially, economically and politically; and the effective role of the United Nations in establishing a peaceful situation should be brought into play. It is our belief that Lebanon should be allowed to succeed as one country, not a country enfeebled by a de facto Balkanisation, which seems to be the fate that some outside forces apparently are determined to inflict upon it if they can.