LONDON (Oct. 23)
The Daily Express said today that Moscow “may really mean business” when it says it would try to clear the Suez Canal by force if an agreement to reopen the waterway is not reached soon. According to the newspaper, these threats have been reported by members of Parliament who are in close touch with the British Foreign Office. There are hints that a Soviet dredge will be brought into the Suez Canal whether or not Israel agrees.
The Express report said the MPs believed that Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin has dropped hints of these intentions in Washington and London in the hope that pressure will be put on Israel to agree to the canal being reopened or at least not to open fire if the Russian dredges begin to work. Mr. Kosygin is reportedly anxious to get the canal opened for the benefit of the Soviet Navy and the expansion of Russian influence in the Middle East; because the canal is the shortest route for arms shipments to North Vietnam, and because of the serious effect on the Egyptian economy by its continued shutdown, the Express said.
(Addressing members of a United Jewish Appeal study mission in Israel earlier this week, Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan warned that if the Soviets tried to force open the Suez Canal they would have to take the responsibility of fighting the Israel Army and driving it from the canal’s east bank.)