Thant Warns Egyptians He May Withdraw Observers, ‘post’ Reports

The New York Post said today that it had learned of a “secret letter” from United Nations Secretary-General U Thant to President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt “threatening” to pull UN cease-fire observers out of the Suez Canal zone if Egypt continued its practice of firing at UN observation posts on the Israeli side of the waterway. According to Post reporter Michael J. Berlin, “the Egyptians have drafted a letter to U Thant (not yet received at UN headquarters) in which they promise to ‘cooperate completely with UN observers to limit the dangers to which they are exposed because of dangerous conditions resulting from the repeated Israeli aggression.’” Mr. Thant, who was in Geneva today, may report on the observers’ status this weekend.

Mr. Berlin said that the Thant warning, which also went to Jerusalem, on April 21 said, “I do not feel that this operation can or should be maintained indefinitely under such conditions.” But, Mr. Berlin noted, “in the 10 days since Thant cited the extensive damage to UN installations…UN observers themselves have reported at least 16 separate occasions in which Egyptians have fired rifles, machine guns and mortars at UN personnel and installations most of the time with no Israelis in the vicinity.” In a letter to Mr. Thant last Thursday, Israel’s UN Ambassador Yosef Tekoah accused the Egyptians of intentionally firing at UN posts in order to force the UN to withdraw its observers. The withdrawal of the UN truce observer forces from the Israel-Egypt Sinai border and the Sharm el-Sheikh in May, 1967 is regarded as the main factor precipitating the Six-Day War.

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