WASHINGTON (Nov. 30)
Robert S. Pranger, deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, was in Cairo this weekend for the purpose of convincing the Nasser regime that U.S. military personnel are not serving in Israeli armed forces as Egypt has alleged. The Pranger visit, well-informed sources here reported today, was made at the behest of the State Department which was said to be extremely concerned about the allegations.
Mr. Pranger was said to have delivered a list of all known American olim (new immigrants) serving in the Israeli forces as draftees or volunteers. The list may have been prepared by the U.S. Embassy in Israel to demonstrate that a relatively small number of persons in the Israeli military hold dual American-Israel citizenship, the sources said.
The Defense Department official went to Cairo, after visiting Israel and Jordan to ask the Egyptians to accept America’s word that there is no official involvement of U.S. personnel in Israeli forces. It was hoped, the sources said, that presentation of a list and personal assurances would convince President Nasser and his top aides of U.S. sincerity on that issue. The main point of the Pranger visit was said to emphasize that the U.S. Government looks with disfavor at the limited voluntary involvement and Is concerned about the credibility of American assurances about it, the sources said. It was noted that Mr. Pranger met with the two officials said to be most responsible for spreading the allegations about American military men serving in Israel. They were Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, editor of the semi-official newspaper, Al Ahram, and one of Nasser’s closest confidants, and with Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad. Cairo Radio said this weekend that 48 Americans were piloting Israeli jets while 136 more were serving in radar and ground crews. The allegations were termed “complete nonsense” by an Israeli military spokesman. He said, “we are flying our own planes and manning our own ground facilities. We don’t need foreign pilots or ground crews and don’t have them.”
The Cairo visit of Mr. Pranger and consultations with two of Col. Nasser’s closest associates were the first by a high-ranking U.S. official since Lucius W. Battle, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, went in 1968. State Department officials would say only that Mr. Pranger was on an “orientation” visit. U.S. diplomats in the Spanish Embassy, which handles American interests in Egypt, said he came to “gather information and answer any questions the Egyptians might put to him.” State Department sources insisted that he was not on a special mission and did not carry any formal messages from the U.S. Government.