WASHINGTON (Apr. 26)
State Department sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that there has been no change in Secretary Rogers’ Middle East itinerary. They were commenting on reports that Rogers might advance his visit to Israel. The sources said that as far as they are aware, Israel remains the last stop on the Secretary’s five-nation tour unless there has been some last minute “very radical” change. Larry Pomeroy, CBS Radio Network News correspondent, reported from Tel Aviv today that “reliable sources” in Israel said “there is reason to believe” that Rogers will visit Israel before Egypt to “dramatize the U.S. move to narrow the negotiating gap between Israel and Egypt.” Rogers announced the plans for his Mideast visit at a press conference here last Friday. He said he would visit Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Israel beginning about May 1, following his participation in a meeting of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) powers in Ankara, Turkey. Rogers flew to London today on the first leg of his trip. State Dept, sources would not say in what order the Secretary of State would visit the Middle East countries but did say on Friday that Israel “definitely” would be the last country on his itinerary. Some circles in Israel have made it known that they consider this a slight.
The State Department meanwhile imposed a blackout on details of Rogers’ movements. Department spokesman Charles Bray told newsmen today that he would not reply to questions on the Secretary’s itinerary for the next week or ten days for “obvious reasons.” Apparently he referred to security reasons. Bray said that any announcements of Rogers’ schedule would be made by the Secretary’s party or other competent authorities while he is abroad. Bray would not say whether diplomatic negotiations for an interim arrangement to reopen the Suez Canal would continue while Rogers is away from Washington. He observed that the Secretary had made it clear that he would discuss various ideas for reopening the canal with the Israeli and other interested governments. Asked if this included the Soviet Union, Bray replied that he only had the United Arab Republic in mind, Bray described Rogers’ trip, as it was described by the Secretary himself last Friday, as “supplementary” to the Jarring peace talks which are currently stalled. Bray said in reply to questions that the United Nations mediator Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring who is presently back at his ambassadorial post in Moscow, would be kept informed of the progress of Rogers’ talks with Arab and Israeli leaders. Dr. Jarring is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General U Thant on Wednesday in Geneva.