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Nixon Calls for New American Initiative, Leadership to ‘cool Off’ Mideast

President Richard M. Nixon, at his first press conference, placed considerable emphasis on the question of Arab-Israeli peace, terming the Middle East area a “powder keg” that “needs to be defused.” Mr. Nixon first injected the Mideast issue in response to a question pertaining to his position on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and missile talks with the Soviet Union. He said “it would be a mistake, for example, for us to fail to recognize that simply reducing arms through mutual agreement — failing to recognize that reduction will not, in itself, assure peace. The war which occurred in the Mideast in 1967 was a clear indication of that.”

He added that he wanted to see to it that “we have strategic arms talks in a way and at a time that will promote, if possible, progress on outstanding political problems in which the United States and the Soviet Union, acting together, can serve the cause of peace.”

The President was then asked if he had any plan outside the United Nations for achieving Middle East peace. Mr. Nixon replied that “the suggestion had been made that we have Four-Power talks. The suggestion has also been made that we use the United Nations as the primary forum for such talks. And it has also been suggested that the United States and the Soviet Union bilaterally should have talks on the Middle East. In addition to that, of course, the problem finally should be settled by the parties in the area.”

He continued: “We are going to devote the whole day on Saturday to the Mideast problem, just as we devoted the whole day this last Saturday on the problem of Vietnam. We will consider on the occasion of that meeting the entire range of options that we have. I shall simply say at this time that I believe we need new initiatives and new leadership on the part of the United States in order to cool off the situation in the Mideast. I consider it a powder keg, very explosive. It needs to be defused. I am open to any suggestions that may cool it off and reduce the possibility of another explosion, because the next explosion in the Mideast, I think, could involve very well a confrontation between the nuclear powers, which we want to avoid.”

In Cairo, the newspaper Al Ahram, asserted today that the Egyptian Government has received word from President Nixon that an Arab-Israeli solution must be found by the parties directly involved in the conflict. The newspaper, controlled by the Egyptian Government, reported that a message from President Nixon held that a “permanent Mideast peace cannot be achieved except with the approval of concerned parties and no solution can be imposed from outside.”

(Al Ahram said the message was conveyed through Donald Bergus, ranking U.S. diplomat in Cairo. The paper said that the reported Nixon position amounted to depreciation of the French proposal for Big Four talks on the Middle East.)

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