WASHINGTON (Feb. 27)
A State Department spokesman said today that he knew of no plans for early Four Power talks on the Middle East which diplomatic reports from London said would begin early next week. The official, Carl Bartch, said he had no information to support the London reports. He noted that the U.S. is still engaged in bi-lateral conversations at the United Nations with the representatives of Soviet Russia, Britain and France. The purpose of those talks is to ascertain whether sufficient common ground exists for multi-lateral or Four Power discussions to seek a solution of the Middle East crisis. So far nothing has emerged from the bi-lateral talks.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that President Nixon has agreed to bi-lateral talks between the U.S. and the Soviet Union outside the frame work of the UN discussions to see if there are any areas of agreement on the Middle East. Washington Post correspondent Richard Harwood attributed his information to sources close to the President who are accompanying him on his current European tour. According to Mr. Harwood, the talks will be conducted in Washington between Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin.
Mr. Harwood said the U.S. was optimistic since it believes the Soviets want talks with the U.S. on broader subjects, such as arms control, which could be brought about if there is progress toward a Mideast accord. President Nixon has reportedly said he would be agreeable to a summit meeting with Soviet leaders if progress could be achieved first on a “lower level.” The Washington talks on the Middle East would fit the description of “lower level” talks.
(The UN peace envoy Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring, who had been expected in Israel today, postponed his trip owing to Mr. Eshkol’s death and sent Foreign Minister Abba Eban a letter of condolence.)
(The Soviet Government, in a statement carried by the Tass news agency today, charged Israel with “abominable provocations” against the neighboring Arab states and said that commando action against Israel would intensify. Such action, it was said, was justified by international law.)