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Washington and Moscow in Contact As Middle East Tension, Fighting Increase

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Soviet and United States sources against a background of heightened tension in the Middle East, disclosed today that diplomatic contacts have taken place between the two countries with a view to finding a peace formula. The U.S. has also held discussions with Britain and France. (France today proposed a meeting of the Big Powers to work for an international solution to the Arab-Israel dispute. Information Minister Joel Le Theule announced in Paris.) Soviet sources indicated that the U.S. had advanced certain ideas to Moscow on a peace formula. But, it was conceded, such proposals had limited value unless agreement could be obtained from both Israel and the Arabs. The Russians have voiced apprehension that Israel is trying to provoke a new round of fighting as a pretext for striking at the Egyptian military establishment before the latter is ready for a new war.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk reported to the Cabinet today on Mideast developments and the new outbreak of fighting. His report was described as “comprehensive,” State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey insisted to a press conference that there was no specific “blueprint” advanced by the U.S. for peace beyond the plan enunciated by President Johnson, embodying the five points of June, 1967. Mr. McCloskey said it would be “misleading” to assume that a detailed formula has been proposed by the State Department beyond the policy expressed after the Six-Day War. He conceded that the U.S. has held discussions on Mideast peace with Russia, France and Britain, and said Washington continues to support the mission of United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring.

(Reports from Cairo indicated that Egypt expressed fear that Israel was going to attack. Egyptian officials were quoted as stating that Egypt would not strike at Israel’s convenience but would enter battle when fully prepared. In Paris, Foreign Minister Michel Debre today reiterated France’s stand that only a Four Power conference can stop the escalation of violence in the Mideast that could lead to war.)

STATE DEPARTMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER IRAQI MILITARY ACTION

U.S. officials yesterday condemned both sides in the latest Israel-Arab eruptions along the Jordanian cease-fire line. Special concern was voiced by State Department sources over Israel’s use of jets. Officials also voiced concern over the injection of Iraqi artillery units into the Jordan-Israel issue, pointing out that no cease-fire agreement exists between Iraq and Israel. It was also noted that the Soviet Union has worsened the situation by supplying the Iraqis with the same type of artillery and rockets used against U.S. forces by North Vietnam in the vicinity of the demilitarized zone. It was also noted that Arab guerrillas in Jordan are using weapons of the type supplied to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong by the USSR.

The State Department termed as untrue a press association Paris report that the U.S. was seeking support of key Western nations for a new seven-point peace plan. The Associated Press reported that the Johnson Administration was said to have initiated the plan which was seen as having gained momentum after the election. The points were reported as: Israel withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and settlement of the status of Jerusalem and other occupied areas at a latter date; Egyptian termination of the state of war; resettlement of Arab refugees in Israel-occupied territory; Egyptian acceptance of the principle of free navigation by Israel in the Strait of Tiran and Suez Canal; Israel withdrawal from Sharm el Sheikh, which controls the Strait of Tiran, and their replacement by United Nations forces in an arrangement similar to the one existing before June, 1967; an East-West agreement on limiting arms shipments to the Middle East; and signature of the Arabs and Israel to a peace treaty.

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