WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
The National Security Council will hold its second full-dress meeting this week on the Middle East crisis amid signs that the United States may take its first step under the Nixon Administration toward helping bring peace to the area. The initial step, according to diplomatic sources, probably will be a reply to the French note of Jan. 16 proposing a Big Four meeting at the United Nations aimed at joint action on resolving the Arab-Israel dispute.
Official silence has prevailed on last Saturday’s three-hour National Security Council meeting attended by President Nixon and his top foreign policy and military advisors. Well-informed sources said the Council could not be expected to blueprint an entirely new course for U.S. policy on the Mideast in its first session on the problem since Mr. Nixon took office Jan. 20. Officials said the reply to the French note will suggest that instead of a meeting of representatives of the U.S., Soviet Union, France and Britain at the UN, a joint Mideast formula should be achieved in bilateral talks.
It was understood that the U.S. will emphasize that whether the Four Powers meet formally or continue bi-lateral dialogues, they must avoid the impression that they plan to impose a solution on the Arabs and Israel. Rather, emphasis must be placed on reaching a solution within the UN framework and through Secretary-General U Thant’s special Mideast representative, Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring, officials said.
One apparent indication of the Administration’s emphasis on using the UN was Mr. Nixon’s discussions with Secretary of State William P. Rogers on shifting Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for UN Affairs, to the post of Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. He was expected to succeed Parker T. Hart, career diplomat and Near East specialist.
The Johnson Administration was cool to a Four Power approach on the grounds that it might be construed as an effort to impose a Mideast settlement–an approach strenuously opposed by Israel which insists on Arab-Israel negotiations leading to a treaty. Since taking office, the Nixon Administration has suggested that it is not committed to Johnson policies and must take a more active role in the pursuit of peace. At his Jan. 27 press conference, Mr. Nixon emphasized the need for “new initiatives and new leadership on the part of the U.S. in order to cool off the situation in the Mideast,” a situation he termed a “powder keg, very explosive.” He warned that another Arab-Israel war could lead to a confrontation between the nuclear powers.
(Foreign Minister Abba Eban, of Israel yesterday sought to allay fears that the Mideast was on the brink of a new all-out war. He said in a radio interview that the cease-fire was not nearing collapse and there was no present danger of war or a Big Power confrontation. He stressed that “the situation in the Middle East will be a burden on peace as long as no agreed settlement is reached.” He said that Mr. Nixon’s reference to the region as a “powder keg” which must be “defused” did not seem to reflect any new attitude. Mr. Eban pointed out that Mr. Nixon had used the same phrase in reference to the Middle East during last fall’s election campaign.)
Britain has joined the Soviet Union and France in pushing for a Four Power meeting. Washington and the Kremlin have already been in contact on the Mideast question. Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, replying to a Dec. 30 Soviet note proposing a five-point peace plan, asked for clarification on a number of points.
NIXON, FISHER CONFER; MIDEAST, IRAQI JEWS BELIEVED ON AGENDA
In a related development, White House spokesman confirmed that Mr. Nixon met for more than an hour with Max M. Fisher of Detroit, the American Jewish leader closest to the President, on the eve of the Saturday Mideast policy deliberations. Mr. Fisher was co-chairman of the national Republican fund-raising teem supporting the Nixon-Agnew ticket in the election last November. The meeting marked the first occasion since the inauguration that Mr. Nixon met at length with a personage prominently identified with the U.S. Jewish community.
Questioned by J.T.A., Mr. Fisher would comment only that he discussed “a wide range of subjects” with the President. The talk was believed to have covered such topics as the Iraqi persecution of Jews, the current Middle East crisis and efforts by the Soviet Union and France to impose a settlement unfavorable to Israel. The conversation may have included such issues as urban problems, racial tensions and the concept of voluntarism in solving the problems of American cities. Mr. Fisher, an industrialist, was appointed by Mr. Nixon during the election campaign as his special assistant on urban affairs. Mr. Fisher later met with former Gov. George Romney of Michigan, new Secretary of Housing, and Urban Development. Mr. Fisher is a personal friend of Mr. Romney.
West Germany’s new Ambassador to the United States and former Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Rolf Pauls, said here, referring to the Middle East, that never in history has an imposed solution solved any problems. He presented his credentials to Mr. Nixon.