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U Thant Says He Has Tried to Help Jews in Several Arab Countries; Scores Hijackers

United Nations Secretary General U Thant told the Royal Commonwealth Society here today of his personal efforts to intervene with the governments of several Arab states on behalf of the Jewish minorities in those countries. Mr. Thant brought up the subject in connection with what he said had become “an almost routine function of the United Nations” to arrange for the repatriation of civilian or military personnel detained by one side or another in the Middle East conflict. The Secretary General said that a continuing source of concern, especially since 1967, was the situation of the small Jewish minorities in some Arab states. “After the 1967 war I approached the government of the United Arab Republic concerning the Jewish community in the UAR, of whom some were imprisoned and others were unable to get exit permits. Eventually, some 1400 of them were released and, with the help of the government of Spain, enabled to leave the UAR,” Mr. Thant said. He continued, “My approaches to the government of Iraq on the question of the Jewish minority in that country have been less successful, but my concern continues and I still hope for results.” Mr. Thant said that his approaches to this situation, like his interventions on behalf of the accused who were publicly hanged in Iraq last year, “can be based only on humanitarian considerations and in the interest of lessening tensions in the area, since the Jewish people concerned, being citizens of the countries in which they live, are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the government.”

Mr. Thant also referred to attempts to hijack and sabotage commercial aircraft which, he said was “one of the deplorable and quite recent phenomena of the Middle East crisis.” He recalled that he had intervened in two instances, the hi-Jacking of an E1 A1airliner to Algiers in 1968 and of a TWA airliner to Damascus last August. He said that in his view it was “extremely important that the hijackers should derive no advantage from the criminal act of hijacking by bargaining over, or making deals for, the release of the crew, passengers and aircraft. If this is allowed to happen,” Mr. Thant said, “hijacking will be encouraged and will become more widespread.” He said the country to which an aircraft is hijacked may find itself in a delicate position, especially in the Mideast, and while it may wish to act in a proper manner, “it may find it politically very difficult to do so.” Mr. Thant criticized “highly publicized international pressures such as threatened boycotts” which, he maintained, could only increase the political difficulties for the recipient.government. He said these considerations should be borne in mind if, as sometimes happens, he is accused of tardiness, appeasement or ineffectiveness in securing the release of plane, passengers and crew. Mr. Thant also spoke of the failure of the UN so far to have the Suez Canal cleared so that 13 stranded ships of eight nations could be extricated. He attributed it to the “extreme suspicion and hostility which so often prevents constructive developments in that part of the world.”

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