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Eban Confers with U.S. Secretary of State; Insists on Reopening of Strait of Tiran

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Israel Foreign Minister Abba Eban met today with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in an effort to determine what the United States will do to open the Strait of Tiran — which, he said, was not only a national problem of Israel but an international issue. Mr. Eban also met with Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow and Assistant Secretary of State Lucius Battle. He was expected to meet later tonight with President Johnson.

Mr. Eban made the point that it was generally agreed in his meetings in Paris and London yesterday that the Strait of Tiran must be reopened. He said the closure of the passage was a mutilation of geography which Israel “obviously can’t accept.” The issue is “grave for the whole world,” he said, maintaining that steps must be taken to deal with Egypt’s “illicit and arbitrary act.” Mr. Eban came from London where he met with Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He conferred yesterday with President de Gaulle in Paris.

Meanwhile, British Minister of State for External Affairs George Thomson prolonged his stay in Washington and had discussions with Secretary Rusk on plans to keep the Gulf of Akaba open. Mr. Thomson also met this afternoon with Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow and other experts now concentrating on the Mideast crisis.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, under whose administration the American commitments on freedom of passage in Akaba Gulf were enunciated, said today that it was now a United Nations problem rather than a unilateral American matter. He said. “None of us should hurry to become involved.”

A bipartisan group of 41 Senators and Congressmen today issued a joint statement supporting the pronouncement by President Johnson that the blockade is illegal. Ninety-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a strong statement earlier pledging support of “whatever action may be necessary to resist aggression against Israel and to preserve the peace.” The statement said the Administration must make clear to “those who are now bent on the destruction of Israel that the U.S. will take all necessary actions.”

Chairman J.W. Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that he has concluded from available information that the Soviet Union holds the key to settlement of the Mideast crisis. He said the United States lacks influence in the Mideast “because of its primary preoccupation with the war in Viet Nam.”

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