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Britain Denies Egyptian Belligerency Claims Against Israel

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Britain has always held that Israel is entitled to freedom of passage of the Suez Canal and the Macmillan government denies Egypt’s claims to a state of belligerency against Israel, Lord Home, government spokesman, told the House of Lords today. Lord Home further said that the entire matter is one of international law which probably must be interpreted by an international court.

Laborite Lord Stansgate charged that for the past eight years the Egyptian Government has been violating the 1888 convention which governs the administration of the Suez Canal, “yet no one appears to have done anything effective or attempted any steps to put that to rights.” He demanded to know whether the Suez Canal Users’ Association had discussed this problem and whether Nasser would be asked to justify legally his exclusion of Israel from the waterway.

Lord Thurso asked whether the Macmillan government would allow the United Nations to “stand meekly aside” while Egypt declared herself in a state of belligerence with another UN member. Lord Home replied that Britain had always felt Israel was entitled to use the canal. He suggested that there were two questions involved at this point: How Israel thought the question should be tackled, and was this a question for the UN?

The Liberal Party parliamentary committee in Commons stated today that Israel should be allowed complete freedom of use of the Canal. The “next practical test” of the Egyptian Government’s intentions, the statement declared, would occur when Israel attempted to put a ship through the canal. If any attempt is made to interfere with Israel shipping, the Liberal Party suggested, the matter should be referred to the International Court of Justice with the support of all democratic nations.

Meanwhile, a ninth member of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons renounced party loyalty today over the government’s decision to allow British shipping to use the Suez Canal and pay tolls to the Egyptian Government. The last MP, Lord Russell, charged that Nasser’s lack of responsibility was illustrated by his barring of the canal to Israeli shipping.

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