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Lebanon Turns Down Offer To Negotiate Deal With Israel

Mon., Sept. 15, 1997

Lebanon has rejected an Israeli proposal to negotiate an agreement aimed at reducing casualties in south Lebanon, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai approached “a high-ranking commander of the Lebanese army to work out a security agreement that would limit the number of deaths on both sides,” said ministry spokesman Avi Benayahu. He did not elaborate on the plan.

But, he said, Lebanon turned down the offer, which was made recently through a third party.

As casualties mount, Israel’s government is coming under increasing pressure to pull its troops out of the buffer zone it created when Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1985.

The zone was aimed at shielding northern Israel from rocket attacks, but the guerrilla war it spawned has resulted in a number of Israeli casualties.

On Saturday, two Israeli soldiers were killed by a mine; a botched commando raid on Sept. 5 killed 12 soldiers.

Lebanon and Syria have refused to discuss Israel’s demand that in exchange for a pullout, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah be dismantled and the international border secured.

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