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French Officials Refrain from Commenting on Nixon’s Policy to Withhold Jets

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French officialdom has carefully refrained from commenting on the Nixon administration’s decision not to provide Israel with more Phantom and Sky hawk Jets at this time. But privately French leaders see President Nixon’s decision, announced formally last Monday by Secretary of State William P. Rogers, as a vindication of France’s policy of embargoing arms to Israel and its refusal to release 50 Mirage jets that Israel bought and paid for. They view it as one “which contributes towards bringing a settlement nearer” and hint that it was influenced by the recent talks between Mr. Nixon and French President Georges Pompidou. French leaders quote President Pompidou’s statement at his first post-election press conference last year that the DeGaulle embargo “was mainly meant to serve as an exemplary action to be followed by all other countries.”

The view of French Government officials is that the Nixon administration now shows signs of following the French example. Government officials here are also pleased with Secretary Rogers’ assertion at his March 21 press conference that Israel now enjoys air superiority over the Arabs. “This is exactly what we have been saying for two years now.” these officials say. They justify French sales of Mirage Jets to Libya and their efforts to sell the same to Iraq by reiterating the official French view that neither Libya nor Iraq were belligerents in the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The absence of any public comment by French leaders on the Nixon decision is intended in part to mute the domestic opponents of French Mideast policy. But it is mainly in line with the new Government policy of downgrading the importance of the entire Mideast conflict and keep it as much as possible out of the arena of public debates and out of the headlines. The Pompidou line now is that “the matter is neither grave nor urgent.” French official comment on the Mideast is expected to become increasingly rare though the Pompidou Government will quietly pursue its policy of strengthening French ties with the Arab world, observers here said.

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