WASHINGTON (Oct. 5)
The State Department said today that Egyptian leaders have expressed interest in a continuation of the 90-day Suez Canal zone cease-fire beyond its Nov. 6 expiration date. Department spokesman John King said the interest was conveyed to Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Elliot Richardson who headed the U.S. delegation representing President Nixon at the funeral of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Cairo last Thursday. Mr. King would not say which Egyptian leaders had expressed interest. “I cannot say that this involves a promise. I can say that their interest was expressed in a continuation of the cease-fire,” the State Department official said. He added the U.S. hoped that the cease-fire is extended “because it would be in the best interests of all concerned.” Mr. King also disclosed at a briefing for newsmen that Secretary Richardson had “naturally discussed” the problem of rectification of cease-fire violations with the Egyptians while he was in Cairo. Mr. King refused to spell out what the U.S. means by rectification but he said it was made plain to the Egyptians that “we want it.” Similarly, Mr. King declined to say how the cease-fire might be extended, whether by written agreement of the two parties or simply by continued observance of it.
Mr. King said the U.S. “hopes that peace talks can be resumed and that to help prepare for these talks there should be rectifications of the standstill violations.” He would not comment on reported charges by Israel that the Egyptians and their Soviet backers were continuing to increase their weaponry in the truce zone. He said rectification was being discussed in Cairo. in Moscow and here and that the discussions have gone on since Nasser’s funeral. Mr. King said that the United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring’s return to his Ambassadorial post in Moscow last week did not imply that Arab-Israeli peace talks would not be held under his auspices. He said Dr. Jarring would return to the UN in New York “should conditions warrant.” The Israeli Embassy here had no comment on Dr. Jarring’s departure. But diplomatic sources here said the Israelis feel that were it not for Egypt’s cheating on the cease-fire, the two sides might have been sitting down to talks right now. According to these sources the Israelis regard the continued presence of Soviet missiles in the standstill cease-fire zone to be the only obstacle to the talks under Dr. Jarring. The Israeli attitude is that when the missiles are withdrawn, the talks can begin, the sources said.