WASHINGTON (Sep. 15)
A State Department spokesman responded today to charges made yesterday by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad that the United States violated a “commitment” not to deliver weaponry to Israel during the cease-fire period by saying that the U.S. policy of “restraint” on arms shipments to the Middle East “cannot be one-sided.” Robert J. McCloskey, addressing newsmen at a press briefing today, neither confirmed nor denied reports that the U.S. has recently sent Israel 18 more Phantom jets, the basis of Mr. Riad’s charge. He did say that the U.S. “cannot disregard either the (Egyptian) standstill cease-fire violations that have occurred or the continuing Soviet arms flow to the UAR.”
In Cairo today, Mr. Riad repeated his charge. He claimed that it was “obvious” by now that the U.S. had failed to carry out its role as an impartial mediator and “has fallen back on its policy of support to Israeli aggression.” “I can now say that the United States has brought its initiative to an end.” However, he said Egypt was ready to respect the cease-fire, “but if they start shooting against us, we will defend ourselves.” Mr. Riad said Egypt now favored France’s proposal for re-invigorating the Four Power deliberations on the Mideast. Mr. McCloskey said the U.S. was “continuing in our efforts” to seek through diplomatic channels, both “rectification” of Egypt’s violations of the standstill cease-fire and “scrupulous adherence” to the cease-fire. He explained that “rectification” meant Egyptian action to reverse its missile build-up in the standstill truce zone, not American military aid to offset the build-up. Mr. McCloskey declined to say whether the “continuing Soviet arms flow to the UAR” had tilted the balance of power away from Israel. The Administration has repeatedly said that a shift in the power balance detrimental to Israel would be the basis for U.S. aid.
Mr. McCloskey said that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine still held 54 hijacked airline passengers hostage. He said 37 or 38 of them are Americans. Mr. McCloskey said there was no information on how many were Israelis but that three of the hostages may hold dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship. He reported that the new U.S. Ambassador to Amman, L. Dean Brown, arrived in Amman after taking a commercial flight to Beirut. Mr. McCloskey said there had been direct contact between the International Red Cross and the PFLP in Amman but could not confirm whether the Red Cross had contacted any of the hostages.
The State Department spokesman said that Israeli Premier Golda Meir will confer with Secretary of State William P. Rogers in his office at nine a.m. Friday. She reportedly will meet with President Nixon at the White House at 11 a.m. and has scheduled a press conference in Washington for four p.m. Friday. The White House told Palestinian guerrillas yesterday that the holding of U.S. citizens as hostages was “totally unacceptable to the United States Government.” Press secretary Ronald Ziegler said the “illegal detention of U.S. citizens in a dispute involving another nation is particularly reprehensible.” His statement came in response to an announcement by the guerrillas that they would treat American hostages as Israelis until their ransom demands were met.