WASHINGTON (Feb. 5)
President Richard M. Nixon has proposed that the United States and Soviet Russia discuss a curb on arms shipments to the Middle East as one means of easing the growing crisis there. U.S. officials said today that Mr. Nixon made the offer in a letter to Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin replying to the latter’s note on the Middle East that was received at the White House last Saturday.
According to official sources, Mr. Nixon also told the Soviet Premier that the United States has been trying to get both sides to observe the Middle East cease-fire agreements that have been in force since the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war and that it would continue its efforts toward that end. Another point reportedly made by the President was that the outlook for a Mideast settlement might improve if the Soviets responded more affirmatively to United States peace formulas submitted last October and December.
White House press secretary Ronald Ziegler announced that President Nixon’s reply to Mr. Kosygin was delivered yesterday afternoon to the Soviet Ambassador. Anatoly F. Dobrynin by Joseph J. Sisco, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He declined to reveal the contents of the reply or of Mr. Kosygin’s letter. But U.S. officials familiar with the Kosygin note said yesterday that the Soviet leader blamed U.S. support of Israel for the escalation of fighting in the Mideast, urged President Nixon to prevail upon Israel to end its almost daily air attacks on Egypt and hinted strongly that Russia would accelerate arms shipments to Egypt unless the U.S. halted arms shipments to Israel.
BRITAIN MAY ALSO PROPOSE TOTAL BIG FOUR ARMS EMBARGO IN MIDEAST
The Daily Express of London said today that Britain will propose a total arms embargo on the Middle East by all of the Big Powers. According to the paper, the plan will be presented by Lord Caradon, Britain’s chief representative at the United Nations, at a forthcoming meeting of the Big Four–United States, Soviet Russia, Britain and France–on the Middle East situation. The move is intended to cool down the fighting in that region. Moscow would be asked to withhold the new MIG-23 and other modern weapons from Egypt and President Richard M. Nixon would have to halt the supply of Phantom and Skyhawk jets promised to Israel, the Express said. Britain and France would also have to reconsider their plans to sell tanks and aircraft to Libya.
(President Gamal Abdel Nasser said on a television interview in Cairo yesterday that Egypt would ask Soviet Russia for more aircraft and other arms if the United States supplied additional Phantom and Skyhawk Jets to Israel. The Beirut newspaper J 2 Jour reported today that the Soviets have begun a large-scale airlift of weapons to Egypt to offset losses resulting from continuous Israeli attacks and to beef up Egypt’s fighting strength. The paper said that giant Anatonov transports have been unloading arms from Russia at Egyptian airports at the rate of one every 30 minutes for the past 72 hours. Another Beirut newspaper, Al Sayyad, said today that President Nasser did indeed visit Moscow last week seeking additional arms and diplomatic support. Nasser’s secret trip to Moscow was widely reported but was never officially confirmed by Egyptian or Soviet sources. Al Sayyad said one of its results was Premier Kosygin’s letter to President Nixon warning of the gravity of the Mideast situation and similar Soviet notes to Britain and France.)
In his reply to Premier Kosygin. President Nixon reportedly coupled his proposal for a Mideast arms curb with an affirmation of pledges he has made to supply Israel with more American weapons if the need arises, Mr. Nixon first made that pledge in a message to an American-Jewish leadership conference in Washington on Jan. 25. He more or less reiterated it at his press conference here last Friday. He said he would decide within 30 days whether to grant Israel’s request for additional Phantoms. Skyhawks and U.S. financial aid. The request was made formally by Premier Golda Meir when she visited Washington last September.
END OF ARMS RACE DEPENDS ON ACCORD BETWEEN U. S. AND SOVIET UNION
Sources here said that President Nixon made it clear to Mr. Kosygin that an end to the Middle East arms race depended on an accord between their two countries. The U.S. had called for a limitation of arms to that area in its proposals to the Soviet Union last Oct. 28 and Dec. 18 which Moscow apparently ignored. Observers pointed out that any Mideast arms embargo would require the agreement of France which has Just agreed to sell more than 100 Mirage Jets and other modern weapons to Libya. It would also presumably involve Great Britain reported to be negotiating the sale of Chieftain tanks to Libya. France still maintains an arms embargo on the belligerents of the June, 1967 war imposed by former President Charles de Gaulle but claims that countries like Libya, Algeria and Iraq were not parties to that conflict. Both France and Britain have declared themselves in favor of a Big Power arms embargo on the Mideast but neither country is prepared to implement it unless all others comply. The American peace formulas reportedly referred to by Mr. Nixon in his reply to Premier Kosygin were outlined by Secretary of State of William P. Rogers in a speech here last Dec. 9.