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Secret Document on U.N. Forces in Egypt Reveals Withdrawal Was Premature

The current issue of the documentary publication of the American Society of International Law contains the text of a secret memorandum from the files of Dag Hammarskjold, the late United Nations Secretary-General, contending that President Nasser of Egypt agreed to limit the use of his right to expell U.N. peacekeeping troops from Egypt.

The memorandum outlined a private agreement between Mr. Hammarskjold and Nasser that the U.N. would not withdraw the Emergency Force troops from the Egyptian-Israeli border, and that Nasser would not order their withdrawal until there was joint agreement that the UNEF troops had completed their assignment.

The memorandum is in flat contradiction to the policies of the present Secretary-General U Thant, who decided last May that Nasser had an unlimited right to demand withdrawal of UNEF troops and that the Secretary-General had no choice but to comply with the demand without any reference to the General Assembly, which established UNEF. Withdrawal of the UNEF troops is believed to have been one of the major factors leading to the outbreak of the third Arab-Israel war on June 5.

The memorandum was written August 5, 1957, seven months after UNEF forces took up positions. The late U.N. official reportedly told friends he was dissatisfied with the public legal arrangements for UNEF and felt obligated to deposit in the U.N. files some of the history of his negotiations with Nasser leading to the UNEF stationing agreement. He also gave a copy of the memorandum to his then consultant, Ernest A. Gross, who also was later a United States Deputy Representative to the U.N.

Last month, when the controversy which Mr. Hammarskjold had foreseen actually developed. Mr. Gross gave a copy to Stephen M. Schwebel, executive vice-president of the American Society of International Law, for publication in its “International Legal Materials.”

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