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U Thant to Step Down from U.N. Post; Israel Expresses ‘regret’

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Israel expressed “greatest regret” here today over the step taken by Secretary-General U Thant, who has announced that he will not offer himself as the candidate for a second term as the U.N.’s chief executive officer.

Mr. Thant’s term of office expires November 3, In a long-awaited decision, he announced today, through a letter to the heads of the delegations of all member-states of the United Nations: “I have decided not to offer myself for a second term as Secretary-General, and to leave the Security Council unfettered in its recommendations to the General Assembly with regard to the next Secretary-General.” He then added a sentence which was seen as stronger, referring to his decision as one spelling his “unwillingness” to serve a second term.

Israel’s statement today was made on behalf of his Government by Ambassador Michael S. Comay, Israel’s permanent representative here. Mr. Comay said:

“The Israel Mission has learned with the greatest regret that U Thant has decided not to offer himself for a second term as Secretary-General. Israel was among the member states that originally urged him to become Dag Hammarskjold’s successor, and recently Israel leaders have expressed to him the fervent hope that he would continue in the lofty task he has filled with such wisdom, devotion and selflessness.

“My own relations with U Thant, both official and personal, have always been most cordial, and I have had the privilege of free access to him and his ready understanding in all matters relating to Israel’s position in the Middle East and as a United Nations member. I share the hope that his departure may be delayed for an appropriate period of time, pending the choice of a suitable successor. Whenever he leaves, it will be a genuine loss to the United Nations and to the cause of world peace.”

During his ambassadorship here as the representative of Burma, Mr. Thant was known as very friendly to Israel. Earlier, in 1955, he had visited Israel as the press aide to U Nu, then Burma’s Prime Minister. Both Mr. Nu and Mr. Thant spoke very highly of Israel’s achievements, both during their visit and later.

In his post as Secretary-General, Mr. Thant was deemed by observers here to have been meticulously fair in all Israeli-Arab disputes that have come up in recent years before the United Nations and its various organs.

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