U.S. backs Lebanon plan and vows missile support

JERUSALEM — U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen has called on Syria and Lebanon to accept a recent Israeli proposal to withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon.

Cohen, who was in Israel for one day as part of a regional tour, issued the call after meeting Monday with Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai.

Israel recently said it would implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 and withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon if the Lebanese government would guarantee to maintain security in the region.

Both Lebanon and Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, have rejected the offer out of hand, saying any Israeli pullback must be unconditional.

Cohen, who also discussed strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States with Mordechai, agreed to an Israeli request for an additional battery of Arrow anti-missile missiles.

Cohen said the United States would continue aiding research and development of the Arrow project, but added that he could not get into specific funding figures until Congress authorized the spending.

"We agree that Israel needs a third Arrow battery to improve its defenses against missile attacks," Cohen said. "Israel is determined to be as strong and secure for the next 50 years as it has been for the last 50 years. The United States intends to do its part by helping Israel to maintain its qualitative edge. We want Israel to be strong so that it can continue to take risks for peace.

"It is not enough for Israel to be able to win wars," Cohen said. "It also must win peace in order to achieve lasting security."