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London Underwriters, Government of Ghana, File Heavy Claims for Plane Damages

Heavy claims for damages caused by Israel’s Dec. 28 commando raid on Beirut International Airport have been lodged by London underwriters and by the Government of Ghana, one of whose planes was destroyed in the attack.

The Ghanaian plane, a Viscount-10 jet, was leased to the Middle East Airlines, a largely Arab-owned company, and carried its insignia. The Israeli commandos who carried out the raid were scrupulously careful not to harm the aircraft bearing the insignia of non-Arab countries. The claim from Ghana for compensation was embarrassing because that country has been friendly with Israel and maintains close commercial ties with it. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Government was studying the claim. He denied a news agency report that Ghana had threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Israel unless compensated for the aircraft and said that the Ghanaian Foreign Minister had assured Jerusalem on Friday of his country’s intention to maintain good relations with Israel.

Reports from London meanwhile said the British Government was preparing to pressure Israel to compensate British underwriters who were processing some $25 million in claims arising from the Beirut raid. The total cost of the 13 aircraft destroyed was estimated at close to $50 million but the burden did not fall entirely on British underwriters because part of the claims were re-insured. The British Board of Trade has reportedly asked for pressure on Israel and the Government was said to be working out the “mechanics of a diplomatic approach.”