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U Thant Voices ‘regret’ and Foresees Damage to Mideast Peace Efforts

Secretary-General U Thant expressed “regret and concern” today at the announcement of the sentencing and hanging in Iraq. He expressed fears that “the repercussions from this unhappy development will also be likely to impede efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict situation in the Middle East. A statement issued by a UN spokesman noted that “in the view of the Secretary-General, mass trials and executions are always to be deplored and are particularly abhorrent and dangerous when they are carried out in such a way as to inflame the emotions of the populace.” The statement pointed out that as soon as Mr. Thant had learned Jan. 13 of the trials, he “asked the permanent representative of Iraq to convey to his Government the Secretary-General’s deep concern about them, and particularly about the impact they would have on public opinion both inside and outside of Iraq.” The statement said that “in the exercise of his good offices on humanitarian grounds the Secretary-General did not question the right of the Government of Iraq to put on trial any of its own citizens, as were apparently all of those convicted, nor could he attempt to appraise the validity of the charges.” Representatives of Israel and Iraq were scheduled to meet with Mr. Thant today, and it was expected that Israel would file a protest note with him.