LONDON (Jul. 19)
The British Government considers an “interim” verbal reply by the Egyptian Government on the shelling of the British freighter Anshun inadequate and demands an apology, a spokesman for the British Government declared in Commons today.
At the same time, the government spokesman rejected Laborite demands that the Egyptian blockade of the Suez Canal and surrounding waters be brought before the United Nations and that arms shipments to Egypt be halted until it changes its belligerent attitude. He said the demands were premature.
Replying to questions by Labor M.P. Ernest Davies, Foreign Under Secretary R.H. Burton said that the Egyptian reply, given the British Charge d’Affaires in Cairo yesterday by the Acting Foreign Minister of Egypt, said that a written answer to the British protest was not yet ready owing to the fact that information concerning the incident–the shelling of the freighter in the Straits of Akaba two weeks ago–was still being received and studied by the Egyptian authorities.
The Egyptians also said that there was a possibility that there might have been some confusion in signals between the ship and the shore batteries and added that the Egyptians were studying their signal procedure to avoid similar situations. The Egyptian Minister said the shots were not meant to hit the vessel, and if it had been damaged the Egyptian Government deplored it.
Mr. Turton then stated that the British Government does not regard this reply “as adequate and will continue to press for a full and proper answer.” It has also “reserved the right to claim compensation, and considers that an apology is called for.” The Egyptian Government has been informed that “incidents of this sort can only damage relations between the two governments,” Mr. Turton told Commons.
At his point, Mr. Davies drew laughter from the House by asking whether the government did “not agree that it would be a very good policy to ban the export of arms to Egypt until they can learn to point them in the proper direction and fire them with their eyes open knowing at what they are aiming#” It was Mr. Davies too who asked for British Government action at the UN against the Egyptian blockade.