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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing us to testify. We appreciate your focusing on U.S. Policy Towards Lebanon. I want to submit my statement for the record.

Since its independence in 1989, the American Task Force for Lebanon has been unequivocal in calling for the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon. The difficulty is in how to reach this objective.

I want to direct these remarks as much to the Lebanese-American community as to the Committee. We do not expect the United States will pressure Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. You will recall that U.N. Security Council Resolution 425, which was supported by the United States and which calls for Israel to "withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory”, has been in existence since 1978. Equally, we do not expect that the United States is in a position to expel Syrian troops from Lebanon. You will recall that the United States declined to do this during the tense period from 198284, when the United States participated in the Multinational Force in Lebanon.

It is now apparent that the most likely way to ultimately secure a withdrawal of all nonLebanese forces from Lebanon is through a comprehensive Middle East agreement. The Department of State has made this plain repeatedly. A successful Middle East peace is also important for Lebanon's economy, because Lebanon has been rebuilding its infrastructure for an era of regional peace and consequently, Lebanon is now overextended and its economic capacity is underutilized.

The American Task Force for Lebanon advocates the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 425, U.N. Security Council Resolution 520, which calls for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political in endence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon”, and the implementation of the commonly-held interpretation of the Taif Accord. We realize the difficulty in implementing these resolutions and agreements, because they are intertwined with the complexities of the peace process.

We support United States policy calling for the disarmament of all remaining armed factions in Lebanon. The presence of these groups in parts of Lebanon complicates Lebanon's international relations. We welcomed Lebanon's arrest of five operatives of the Japanese Red Army in March.

The ban on the use of U.S. passports may have made sense when it was imposed by Secretary of State George Schultz in January 1987, but it did not make sense when Secretary of State Warren Christopher renewed it in January 1997. We sometimes lose track of time, but the last American citizen kidnaped in Lebanon was U.S. Marine Colonel William Richard Higgins on February 17, 1988, over nine years ago.

We have firm figures on the numbers of solely U.S. passport holders visiting Lebanon in 1995 and 1996. I am not talking about U.S.-Lebanese dual nationals who enter with Lebanese passports or identity cards. Lebanon's four diplomatic missions in the United States issued 9990 visas in 1996 and 12,344 visas in 1995. Surely, there would have been ample American targets in Lebanon if the Department of State's contention about threats to Americans were credible. Because of the travel ban, American medical missions to Lebanon have even been rebuffed.

There is a determined new Secretary of State, who will complete her review of the travel ban by July 31. We are told she brings an open mind to this issue. It is no secret that the Near East Affairs Bureau, the Office of Counter-Terrorism, and the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon all recommended to Secretary Christopher in January that the prohibition on the use of U.S. passports for travel to Lebanon be replaced by a stern travel advisory. The officials making this recommendation were all of ambassadorial rank and accustomed to assessing raw intelligence.

Over the past year, U.S.-Lebanese cooperation on airport and general security has been positive. Mary Ryan, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, was in Lebanon from June 9-12. Eric Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Richard Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, personally inspected Beirut International Airport on May 24. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dispatched a two-person team to inspect Beirut International Airport in November 1996.

The new dynamic in the Secretary of State's review of the travel ban is the security measures that Lebanon is taking upon recommendation from the United States. The Lebanese government is building a new airport road which bypasses the Southern Suburbs of Beirut and which should be completed by October. By the end of August, Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines, should implement the final phase of the Sabre passenger reservations system, which would enable detection of anyone accessing passenger lists. The FAA will be training three Lebanese aviation security officers in the United States in August. Lebanon now has an airport emergency plan and a national civil aviation security program.

Mr. Chairman, the United States cannot continue to request that Lebanon undertake costly security measures if the real reason for not lifting the ban is purely political. If it is otherwise, then the implementation of those security measures should result in reciprocal action by the United States.

Pope John Paul II's visit to Lebanon from May 10-11 was tremendously important, given the Vatican's caution about Papal security. In a mass attended by approximately 300,000 people, the Pope said, “A country of many religious faiths, Lebanon has shown that these different faiths can live together in peace, brotherhood and cooperation.” In a

200-page document, the Pope said that Lebanon needs to recover “total independence, complete sovereignty and unambiguous freedom.”

I want to recite names of prominent Americans who have visited Lebanon since March 1996. George Bush, former President of the United States (March 26 - 27, 1996); Hank Brown, then Chairman of Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs [April 3-4, 1996); Charles Percy, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (April 7-12, 1996); Terry Anderson, former Middle East Correspondent for Associated Press and former hostage [August 5, 1996 (stayed approximately two weeks)]; George J. Mitchell, former Senate Majority Leader, Morton Abramowitz, then President of the Carnegie Endowment and former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and Stephen Solarz, former Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific [March 2-4, 1997); Nick Rahall, Representative from West Virginia [April 1-6, 1997); Carl Levin, Senator from Michigan (May 29-30, 1997); and, James Wolfensohn, President of The World Bank [June 8-9, 1997). I especially want to cite Ms. Deborah Bodlander, Majority Staffperson on this committee, who visited Lebanon from January 30 - February 3, 1997.

The ATFL is not urging an irresponsible policy on the travel ban. We have always recommended that the Department of State communicate its concerns about travel to Lebanon in a strongly worded travel advisory. Indeed, the travel advisory could be as stern as the travel advisories to countries which do not have passport restrictions, such as Iran, North Korea, Colombia, Algeria, and Bosnia-Hercegovina, although current conditions in Lebanon do not warrant this.

Although Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has not yet visited the Middle East in her new capacity, when she does go, she should definitely visit Lebanon. These visits are enormously important in that they symbolize American support for the sovereignty of Lebanon. The Secretary should also make the point that the United States will negotiate directly with Lebanon as an independent country. President Clinton established the precedent last year when he met Lebanon's President Elias Hrawi in the White House on April 24; Secretary of State Christopher met with Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and President of the Chamber of Deputies Nabih Berri in Chtaura, Lebanon on the same day. Furthermore, President Clinton met Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in the White House on October 18 and the United States hosted the Friends of Lebanon Conference in Washington on December 16. We do not want this attention to Lebanon to be a one-year aberration.

Principles of democracy should be supported and encouraged by the United States to ensure that no government tamper with Lebanon's democratic institutions. The United States should continue to communicate, through diplomatic channels, its concerns to the Lebanese government about elections, freedom of the press, and human rights. We know of incidents where United States intercession has been effective. However, our country's ability to influence Lebanon depends on U.S. credibility in the Middle East, which has unfortunately diminished recently. The American Task Force for Lebanon has worked closely with the U.S. government, the media, and organizations on issues such as the parliamentary and municipal elections, the arrest of Lebanese citizens without due process, and the audio-visual media law.

On a positive note, in the past year the Lebanese judiciary has shown its independence in a number of instances and is beginning to assume its proper role as a check on the executive and legislative branches. To cite examples, the Constitutional Council overturned the parliamentary elections law and the election of four parliamentarians whose opponents filed complaints.

For FY 97, Lebanon received only $2 million from the United States, despite Lebanon's having suffered $25 billion in direct war damage to its infrastructure, according to a 1991 United Nations assessment. Before the Friends of Lebanon Conference, plans were to phase out all assistance to Lebanon by 1999. Let me state, Mr. Chairman, this would not have been a welcome development, as it undercuts U.S. efforts at promoting the peace process and democracy in the Middle East. The United States Agency for International Development has projected a development program for Lebanon of $12 million per annum over the next five years. The Lebanese-American community is aware that levels of foreign assistance are not commensurate with the depth of the historical ties between Lebanon and the United States, and aid should be increased. All USAID projects in Lebanon are administered by U.S.-registered PVO's and since May, there has been a USAID officer stationed in Lebanon to ensure that accountability meets high Congressional standards.

In recognition of the Lebanese army's role as the symbol of national sovereignty, we urge continued training of Lebanese Army personnel under the International Military Education and Training program and we urge that nonlethal equipment continue to go to the Lebanese Army under Excess Defense Articles. We also urge direct funding of the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad Program for FY 98. This program supports such fine institutions in Lebanon as the American University of Beirut, LebaneseAmerican University, and International College. These American educational institutions have spawned future government officials with a profound comprehension of the United States and it values, not only for Lebanon, but for other countries in the region.

Lebanese often liken their country to the phoenix, the mythical bird that ignites itself only to rise from the ashes. We in the American Task Force for Lebanon do not believe that the phoenix needs to burn again to be properly resurrected. We believe that the phoenix is very much alive and ascending, although not yet soaring.

COUNCIL OF LEBANESE AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS

2077 Nacional Press Building Washington, DC 20045

Tel: (202) 686-4844

Testimony

of

The Council of Lebanese American Organizations (CLAO)

Before

The Committee On International Relations

The House of Representatives

June 25, 1997

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