PARIS (Jan. 13)
France and Algeria appeared to be on the verge of an open diplomatic break today as a result of Algeria’s sudden embargo on oil shipments to France. The Algiers government halted the loading of French tankers at the country’s largest oil port, Arzew. The embargo decision was made Saturday but news reached here only last night, giving rise to a wave of protests and official expressions of indignation. French circles said today that Paris might break off diplomatic relations with its former North African province unless Algiers reconsidered. The embargo was the most serious development so far in the gradually deteriorating relations between France and Algeria. It came almost on the eve of the resumption of crucial Franco-Algerian economic talks. The failure of the economic talks to make any progress since they began months ago is believed to have caused the rift. The French are seeking new, more favorable contracts for oil prospecting and exploitation in Algeria. They believe that their backing of the Arab cause in the Middle East entitled them to friendlier consideration from Algiers but that the Arabs are taking them for granted and not making the slightest effort to meet France’s basic needs. Sources here said that a Franco-Algerian diplomatic break might be followed by a Franco-Israeli rapprochement.