Accusing the Bush Administration of taking a timid and unimaginative approach to Lebanon's escalating violence, Lebanese Ambassador Abdullah Bouhabib called on the United States and the Soviet Union on Wednesday to launch a joint diplomatic campaign to force the warring factions to accept a cease-fire.
He urged the superpowers to back up peace-making appeals with the threat of economic sanctions against Syria and any other foreign powers contributing to the fighting.
"Here is a small country--10 million people," Bouhabib told a small group of reporters. "If the world really meant to solve the controversy, are you saying they could not? A joint declaration would carry more weight than the Americans alone or the Russians alone."
He said that such a superpower initiative, unthinkable a decade ago, is now possible because of the growing U.S.-Soviet dialogue on regional issues.
'Not the Case Anymore'
"In the past, many times we tried to involve the Russians, and the United States refused," Bouhabib said. "This is not the case anymore."
While it is unusual for ambassadors to plead openly for foreign intervention in their own countries, Bouhabib said the fighting has become so bitter that superpower intervention may be the only solution.
Bouhabib was named ambassador to Washington in 1983 by then-Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. Since Gemayel's term ended, two rival regimes--one led by the Christian army commander, Maj. Gen. Michel Aoun, and the other by Salim Hoss, the Muslim premier under Gemayel--have each claimed to be the legitimate government of Lebanon. The United States deals with both groups but refuses to say which it recognizes as the government.
Despite the chaotic situation in Beirut, Bouhabib continues to be accepted by the Administration as Lebanon's official spokesman.
In recent weeks, the State Department has blamed Syria and its Lebanese Muslim militia allies for the escalation of hostilities, especially murderous artillery barrages. The department has called on all sides to abide by a cease-fire, but Bouhabib said that Washington has not taken any action to back its words.
"In the United States we have seen a lot of denunciations (of violence) and sympathy for Lebanon, but we have not seen any concerted action," he said.
Soviets More Forthcoming
Bouhabib noted that the Soviet Union has become more "forthcoming" than it used to be, but he said that Moscow, too, has stopped short of the sort of bold action that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has taken in other areas.
A State Department official shrugged off the criticism.
"We hear from a lot of people that we are not doing enough," he said. "We feel we are doing what we can. We feel diplomatic moves are what should be done."
Bouhabib agreed that the superpower intervention should be diplomatic and not military. His complaint, he added, is that past diplomacy has been ineffective.
"U.S. military intervention in the past, we see now in retrospect, was a mistake," the ambassador said. "We don't want to see that repeated."