Four African Presidents in Israel to Study Prospects for Mideast Peace

Four red carpets were rolled out at Lydda Airport today as the presidents of four African nations arrived on the first leg of a voluntary mission to the Middle East to study the prospects for peace and determine how they can offer their services to that end. Presidents Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon and Yakubu Gowan of Nigeria arrived together on a Nigerian Airlines jet. Their colleague, President Joseph Mobutu of Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa) arrived 80 minutes later from Tunisia.

They were welcomed to Israel by President Zalman Shazar, Premier Golda Meir, Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Transport Minister Shimon Peres and the entire diplomatic corps. Several hundred African students assembled at the airport, many in their native dress, waving flags, as the presidents were greeted by 21 gun salutes, their national anthems played by a military brass band and inspected an honor guard composed of Israel Army cadets. The welcoming ceremonies were performed twice because of the separate arrivals.

Taken by motorcade to Jerusalem, the four presidents were visited in their suites at the King David Hotel by Mrs. Meir and Eban and by Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. Later, all four paid a protocol visit to President Shazar’s home. They will be in the country four days before going to Cairo. After visiting Cairo, they will report on their Middle East mission to the full ten-man Conference of African Presidents which is to convene at Dakar, Senegal Nov. 10. Israel regards the visit of the four African heads of state as of great political and diplomatic significance.

INTEND TO AID IN DIALOGUE

In his address of welcome at the airport, President Shazar promised his country’s full cooperation toward “the mission of peace that you have undertaken.” He said, “I am convinced that you have come here free from all favor or prejudice, that you are ready to listen and desirous beyond all question of momentary interests or imaginary pressures. I can assure you that you will find in my people and my government ample store of trust and confidence accompanied by resolute determination to give you every possible assistance towards the success of your exalted mission and to learn from your valuable experience in order to create the conditions for the dialogue with our neighbors for which we aspire.”

Responding on behalf of the group, President Senghor stressed that they did not come to the region to replace United Nations mediator Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring or the Four Power efforts for peace. “We have come here to help restore peace. We have come to help in the dialogue between the two sides and to assist people of good will to implement to the letter the resolution of the Security Council of the 22nd November, 1967,” he said. The President added that his group has an advantage over others seeking the same goal in that like the Jewish and Arab nations, the Africans have experienced oppression and suffering.

Observers here said it was likely that one of the Presidents would return to Israel after visiting Cairo. President Mobutu visited this country previously as a para-trooper trainee. President Shazar recalled that visit in his personal greeting to the Congo leader.

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