De Gaulle Surprises Diplomats with Renewed Criticism of Beirut Raid

President Charles de Gaulle used the occasion of his annual New Year reception for the foreign diplomatic corps here today to repeat his condemnation of Israel’s reprisal attack on Beirut Airport last Saturday. To the surprise of many diplomats, the French leader brought the subject up in his reply to greetings by the dean of the corps. He said, “Excesses of violence” such as were committed by Israel against a friendly nation “threatened world peace.”

In his New Year’s Day address earlier, President de Gaulle called again on the Big Powers to “assume responsibility” for a settlement of the Middle East conflict based on the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution. He said they should employ all the means at their disposal to promote a settlement that would “ask for the evacuation from all land conquered by force” and would provide “guarantees to both camps of just frontiers, secure freedom of navigation for all everywhere and assure an acceptable status for the refugees.”

The de Gaulle message was a renewal of the French plea for a Big Four conference to impose a Middle East solution, something he has advocated since the June, 1967 war. Observers noted that he failed to mention or even hint at the plan outlined Monday by French Foreign Minister Michel Debre who stressed the need for both Arab and Israeli representatives to be present at a Big Four Middle East conference because “a solution cannot be imposed.” Chief Rabbi Jacob Kaplan, of France, was received by President de Gaulle today and conveyed New Year greetings from the French Jewish community. It is understood that they discussed the Middle East situation and Israel.

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