WASHINGTON (Sep. 1)
President Nixon met with his top foreign policy advisors in San Clemente today to review the situation in the Middle East. The meeting was attended by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew who cut short a rest stop in Hawaii at the President’s request following a ten-day Asian tour. Presidential press secretary Ronald Ziegler said he did not expect any announcements or reports to come out of the meeting at the summer White House. He said none of the officials, including Mr. Agnew, would meet with newsmen. Among the administration aides attending the meeting were Secretary of State William P. Rogers; Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard, sitting in for Defense Secretary Melvin Laird; Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joseph J. Sisco; Richard Helms, director of the CIA and Dr. Henry Kissinger, the President’s national security advisor. Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of Mr. Nixon’s televised interview shown yesterday in which he deflated speculation as to whether American troops would participate in a Middle East peace-keeping force.
Shortly before the meeting in San Clemente began, it was disclosed in Washington that Defense Secretary Melvin Laird revealed for the first time yesterday that the U.S. has been shipping weapons to Israel during the current cease-fire to ensure that the “arms balance does not tip against Israel.” Mr. Laird’s disclosure was contained in a letter to Sen. John C. Stennis, Mississippi Democrat, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. It warned Congress against delays in approving funds needed to finance the shipments. Secretary Laird wrote that if Congress failed to act swiftly on the foreign arms sales bill, it “could mean that vital funds would not be available for maintenance of the military balance in the Middle East, a policy to which the U.S. is committed.” Other administration officials said today that the shipments to Israel were being made in fulfillment of a personal commitment by President Nixon to Premier Golda Meir in July. That commitment, it is believed, was responsible in large measure for Israel’s acceptance of the American peace initiative and cease-fire in the Suez Canal zone. According to military sources the pace of deliveries has not been increased since Israel charged Egypt with truce violations. Neither Mr. Laird nor any other officials indicated the type and quantity of arms being sent to Israel. They refused to say whether the shipments included additional Phantom jets.