French Surprised by Debre’s Statement That Iraq is Not a Mideast Belligerent

Observers here registered this weekend surprise over Foreign Minister Michel Debre’s testimony that France does not regard Iraq as a “battlefield” nation in the Arab-Israel conflict. He told the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee that the French Government would sell arms to Arab states not directly involved in the Mideast conflict. He drew a distinction between Arabs “on the battlefield”–Egypt, Syria and Jordan–and others–Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Observers here recalled that Iraq was a belligerent and participant in the Six-Day War.

He insisted before the committee that France’s military shipments to “battlefield” nations had been minimal, defending France’s readiness to sell Lebanon such equipment on the grounds that the former French dependency has remained neutral. Lebanon has 12 Mirage jet fighter-bombers on order, about two-thirds of which have been delivered. Fifty Mirage-V jets plus spare parts and other military equipment, all ordered and paid for by Israel, have been embargoed by President Charles de Gaulle, M. Debre said France’s policy on the Middle East has remained steady and has been based on three considerations: Maintenance of security in the Mediterranean area; continuation of traditional ties with certain Arab countries, and the wish to see the existence and legitimate rights of Israel recognized.

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