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British, French Press See Elath Incident Setting Back Peace Prospects

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The British press reacted sharply to the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Elath by Soviet-made Egyptian missiles off Sinai on Saturday. It saw the incident dimming hopes for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East and very possibly leading to a new outbreak of war.

The Manchester Guardian’s diplomatic correspondent said today that Foreign Secretary Brown’s efforts to restore relations with Cairo and effect a Middle East peace settlement appeared to be endangered. In Whitehall it was argued that the missile attack made it more urgent than ever to move for a quick Israel-Arab settlement at the United Nations.

The Times declared in an editorial today that “ships of one navy do not sink ships of another navy unless they are at war or spoiling for war.” The sinking of the Elath will certainly make it harder for any doves anywhere to be listened to and it made the Israeli public understandably bellicose, the paper said. “Israel hoped for two things as a result of the war–recognition of her existence by the Arabs and more defensible frontiers. If she cannot get the first, she will concentrate on the second and a new round of fighting is likely to lead to fresh territorial conquests by Israel.”

The London Evening News declared that it hoped the sinking of the Israeli warship “has not blasted the British peace moves in the area.”

The JTA reported from Paris that French newspapers also took a grim view of the Middle East situation today following the Egyptian sinking of the Israeli destroyer Elath and predicted that the incident will have grave consequences on the prospects for a solution of the Middle East crisis.

The newspaper L’Aurore said the development could only lead to disaster. Combat and Figaro both stressed the Israeli public reaction and the influence of an aroused public opinion on any possible settlement. Le Monde reported that the incident had complicated the situation and that no solution could be foreseen at this time.

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