WASHINGTON (Oct. 23)
Foreign Minister Abba S. Eban of Israel and Secretary of State Dean Rusk had a one-hour meeting here today. The appointment had been arranged some time ago as one of a series of consultations on the general Middle East problem and had not been set up as a result of the Elath incident.
Mr. Eban said after the meeting that the question of American sale of arms to Israel had not arisen during his talk with Mr. Rusk and that discussions on that point were going forward “in a normal way.” He said he had not heard of any signs indicating substantial agreement at the United Nations on a possible settlement.
Commenting on the Elath incident, Mr. Eban said that the Egyptian maritime blockade had shifted from the Strait of Tiran and the Suez Canal to the high seas. He said it was difficult to see how strengthening the United Nations cease-fire machinery would prevent such incidents.
Earlier in the day, after attending a luncheon tendered in his honor by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Eban said that Israel was not looking to the United Nations Security Council for action on the sinking of the destroyer Elath. He said “the Security Council has never acted against anything the Arabs wanted.”
Mr. Eban said the sinking of the Elath underlined the need for achieving a permanent peace in the Middle East area and firmly fixed boundaries between Israel and the Arab states. While Israel would file a report with the Security Council on the sinking of its ship, the veto power available to any permanent member would be used to protect the Arabs, he stated. He said it was beyond question that the missiles used in the sinking were supplied by the Soviet Union.
The Israeli leader said that Soviet arms supplied to the Arab states was one of the standing causes of tension in the Middle East. He termed the sinking as “much more than an episode” and pointed out that the Israeli destroyer had patrolled on the same course many times in the past. He said that no attempt had been made by the Egyptians to test the ship’s peaceful intentions before the missiles were launched.
STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN REFUSES TO ASSESS BLAME FOR ELATH SINKING
The State Department refused today to blame Egypt for the attack on the destroyer Elath but deplored in general terms the “lack of restraint” pertaining to the sinking of the ship. State Department press spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said that the U.S. Government had no independent information and was unable to say whether the Elath was in Egyptian waters or outside the international limits.
(In London, the British Foreign Office spokesman termed the sinking of the Elath “one of a long series of cease-fire infringements,” and added that “we profoundly regret” this occurrence, “especially because of the loss of lives.”)
Mr. McCloskey said “the incident is a tragic one and highly regrettable. We deplore the lack of restraint…” Newsmen asked him to say whether Egypt or Israel had shown a lack of restraint. He replied: “I am not assessing blame…certainly lack of restraint brought it about…the vessel was sunk and lives lost but I’m not going to point an accusing finger at this time.”