Eshkol Confers with U.S. Ambassador on Lebanon’s Water Diversion Work

The renewal by some of the Arab states of their work on water diversion projects, intended to withdraw water from Jordan River tributaries, was believed to have been one of the major topics of conversation at an hour-long conference held today between Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and United States Ambassador Walworth Barbour.

While officials declined to reveal details of the conversation, calling the conference “routine,” Mr. Eshkol was believed to have told Mr. Barbour that Israel could not be expected to sit by idly until the Arabs’ water diversion projects are accomplished.

Washington has been inclined until now to accept the explanation given by Lebanon, where work on such a water diversion project has been resumed. According to the Beirut version, its project is intended only as a “demonstration” to show other Arab states that it is willing to follow the Arab policy of injuring Israel’s National Water Carrier by reducing the inflow of water into the Jordan River, from which Israel draws water to help irrigate the northern reaches of the Negev Desert. Actually, Lebanon has maintained, it is working on water diversion only as part of an internal irrigation project.

Now, however, the United States is believed to have understood Israel’s apprehensions on the subject and Israel’s claim that Lebanon is actually engaged in a project for implementation of the general Arab scheme regarding water diversion. The United States is reportedly still cautioning Israel against rash moves.

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