JERUSALEM (Aug. 7)
A top official of the Foreign Ministry left for Rome today to coordinate political and international measures being taken to secure the release of the hijacked Israeli El Al Jet airliner that has been held in Algeria with 12 passengers and crewmembers since July 23. But the Foreign Ministry sharply denied tonight that the mission of Aviezer Chelouche, assistant director-general of the Ministry, intimated that a “deal” was being arranged with Algeria.
A Ministry source said that Israel stands on Its demand for the unconditional release of the $6 million plane and the Israeli detainees and that no concrete proposals from Algeria have been received here. The source said that Israel will not consider releasing captured El Fatah guerrillas from prison in exchange for the plane and its passengers and crewmen, as had been suggested by an El Fatah spokesman. The Ministry said that Mr. Chelouche went to Rome because a top level official was needed on the spot in the absence of an Israeli Ambassador. Ambassador Ehud-Avriel left Rome to become chairman of the Zionist Actions Committee and a new Ambassador has not yet been posted.
(It was learned in Washington today that President Houari Boumedienne of Algeria wrote to United Nations Secretary-General U Thant outlining his Government’s position on the Israeli airliner. The contents of Col. Boumedienne’s letter were not made public. But the report could not be corroborated at the UN.)