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London is Scene of Flurry of Meetings on Middle East

Ambassador Gideon Rafael, director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, conferred for two and a half hours today with United Nations peace envoy Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring. Although their meeting was described as “routine” by Israeli Embassy officials here and by circles close to Dr. Jarring, it was believed to have been significant in view of Dr. Jarring’s reportedly scheduled meetings later this week with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin and UN Secretary-General U Thant. The UN Ambassador has already conferred here with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Moneim Rifai and was scheduled to meet with British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart today.

Dr. Jarring, it was believed, will meet with Mr. Kosygin in Stockholm where the Soviet leader was due on a state visit Thursday. He was expected to confer with Mr. Thant in Geneva where the latter has just opened a general conference of the UN Economic and Social Council. It was also reported here today that Dr. Jarring was anxious to meet with President Johnson when he returns to New York. Dr. Jarring conferred for three hours yesterday with the Jordanian Foreign Minister and a Jordanian spokesman used the phrase “very useful” to describe their talks. He added that they had covered every aspect “within the scope of the Security Council’s resolution” of Nov. 22, 1967.

The London Daily Telegraph’s diplomatic correspondent commented today that despite the flurry of meetings and a few apparently optimistic signs, the impression was that no real progress had been made. The writer said that the Jarring-Rifai talks were “very much in the shadow” of President Nasser’s discussions with Soviet leaders in Moscow since Jordan’s freedom of action was severely limited by what Egypt was prepared to do.

A Conservative member of Parliament, Neil Martin, proposed in the House of Commons yesterday that an international force, “neither Israeli nor Egyptian,” undertake to clear the southern end of the Suez Canal under UN supervision so that 15 merchant ships stranded in the waterway since June, 1967 can be freed. The suggestion was presented in the form of a question to Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Martin wanted to know what steps the Government was taking to clear the southern end of the canal in view of Israel’s objections to unblocking the northern end. Mr. Stewart replied that he was in touch with all of the governments and some of the private interests concerned, but that it would not be correct for him to make any statement on how the matter was being dealt with. The Foreign Secretary was addressed further on the subject of the canal by Laborite Sir Barnett Janner, who asked, “Is it not a fact that Israel, Egypt and the UN had agreed to let the ships out through the southern passage but the only people at present insisting on the northern exit are the Egyptians who refuse to abide by the Security Council’s decision?” Mr. Stewart replied that it made no sense to issue pronouncements on the exact responsibility of any party at this time.

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