Eban Rejects Demand for Withdrawal Time-table As Condition for Truce Extension

Foreign Minister Abba Eban today angrily rejected a demand by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, that Israel must submit a time-table for its withdrawal from occupied Arab territories if it wants the current cease-fire extended beyond its Feb. 5 expiration date. Mr. Eban said it was ridiculous to regard a cease-fire extension “as an act of mercy which Egypt grants Israel when the fact is that Egypt needs the cease-fire more than we do.” Mr. Eban spoke at a dinner of the Journalists Association. President Sadat told Egyptian troops in the Suez Canal zone yesterday that he would agree to renew the cease-fire on only one condition, “when we have a timetable for withdrawal” from Israel. He claimed that without such a pledge “the matter will be turned into a series of delays and procrastinations which could go on for another 20 years.” The cease-fire began last Aug. 7 for 90 days and was extended on Nov. 6 by mutual consent for another 90 days. President Sadat has said previously that the current extension was the last one Egypt would accept unless Israel returns to the Jarring talks before it runs out. His remarks yesterday amounted to a demand that Israel yield on a major point before the peace talks resume.

(Diplomatic quarters abroad tended to discount the adamancy of the new Egyptian position. They attributed it to the “war of nerves” between the two sides while they jockey for the best position at the Jarring talks. They claimed that Israel’s continued absence from the Jarring talks was part of the same psychological warfare. In Washington, Robert J. McCloskey, State Department spokesman, said today, “We do not intend to comment” on Sadat’s statement.) Mr. Eban said that if Egypt ended the cease-fire it would “reap more suffering than it inflicts.” He said Israel was not asking Egypt for a time-table for peace. Questioned about Israel’s attitude toward the re-opening of the Suez Canal, the Foreign Minister said he wanted to “remove a widespread misapprehension” that Israel was responsible for the canal’s shut down. “It was not we who sank the ships that block the waterway” he said, adding that Israel was not responsible for keeping it closed although Egypt refuses to re-open it as long as Israeli forces occupy the east bank. Mr. Eban said Israel would not withdraw from the canal without a peace settlement. He said the government so far has not discussed any proposals that involved re-opening the canal.

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