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British Foreign Secretary Hints in House of Commons That Israel May Get Chieftain Tanks

Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart hinted yesterday that Israel may get the Chieftain tanks which it is seeking from Britain. He asked members of the House of Commons not to press the Government on reports that two sample Chieftains had been sent to Israel because it was not the custom to discuss arms sales in detail and talks with Israel on this particular issue were continuing.

Mr. Stewart said in reply to questions that Britain intended to fulfill its agreement to sell Chieftain tanks to Libya despite reports that the leftist military regime that deposed King Idris did not intend to renew the Anglo-Libyan treaty of friendship and alliance. He said the Libyan sale was conditional on use of the tanks for defense and that this aspect of the agreement had been made public. Mr. Stewart said that Libya had declared its intention to honor this obligation.

He also assured the House that “in the Four Power (Mideast) talks, we should not agree to anything which jeopardizes Israel’s security.”

In another development, a career diplomat who resigned from the foreign service over Britain’s role in the 1956 Suez crisis has taken over responsibility for Middle Eastern affairs in a reshuffling within the Department of Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs of the Foreign Office. Evan Luard, Undersecretary, who has considerable experience in the Middle East, will be in charge of matters of that region which were previously handled by Minister of State Goronwy Roberts. Mr. Roberts was frequently the Government spokesman on Middle East affairs in the House of Commons.

George Thomson, who has special responsibility for Common Market affairs, is now Deputy Foreign Secretary. He and Mr. Stewart, as senior ministers, have overall responsibility for the Middle East.

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