LONDON (Dec. 21)
British Customs officials today halted loading operations involving hundreds of tons of steel tank tracks at the Welsh port of Cardiff. The material. which was believed bound for Egypt, was being loaded aboard a foreign vessel. The tracks are now under guard pending completion of an official investigation.
Reports from Antwerp however, indicated that still another 15 Valentine tanks were loaded on an Egyptian freighter yesterday. The reports also described the feverish activities of Belgian mechanics racing to recondition still another hundred tanks, in fear that export licenses may soon be frozen.
Meanwhile, official circles have explained difficulties in the way of halting the flow of retired British tanks, originally sold as surplus, reaching the Middle East. The tanks, it was explained, are in poor condition when they are scrapped and put on the surplus market. They have been stripped of weapons and other military equipment. There would, therefore, be little ground, in the official view, for objecting to their shipment abroad for agricultural purposes.”
On the other hand, it was learned today that engines for Valentine tanks, overhauled by a London firm, have been reaching Belgium and Holland where, it appears, they are being tried into the hulls of the British “surplus” tanks, together with electrical and other equipment manufactured in the country where they are refitted.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learns that some months ago, when the knowledge of similar transactions had come to the attention of Israel authorities, the matter was raised with the British Government within the framework of talks concerning the operation of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950–under which the United States, Britain and France had guaranteed Middle Eastern borders and the maintenance of the status quo in military power. There would, therefore, seem to be no grounds for a number of reports to the effect that the British Government had only recently become aware of these transactions.
Belgian authorities have repeatedly maintained that since the British surplus arrives in their countries marked “goods in transit,” they are powerless to halt shipments. The only way to prevent war materiel from reaching Egypt by this route, they contend, is for Britain to halt the initial surplus sales to the dealers.