PARIS (Jul. 9)
There seems to be little reason to expect that France’s Middle East policy will change in the coming weeks after the creation of the new French cabinet, headed by Premier Pierre Messmer, political observers said here today. The actual power, according to the French constitution, still lies with President Georges Pompidous, who is thought to be the moving spirit behind France’s Middle East policy over the past few years, the observers pointed out.
Premier Messmer, who served as Defense Minister in a previous cabinet, was the man who officially made the decision to embargo all arms deliveries to Israel at the time of the Six-Day War. A further element suggesting no change in French Mideast policy is the fact that all the other cabinet ministers-particularly Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann-are keeping their posts, at least for the time being.
Messmer is described in the French press as “an orthodox Gaullist.” meaning a hard-line follower of the late President Charles DeGaulle. His last known declaration on the Middle East, was made on Sept. 11, 1967 on the occasion of the visit by Gen. Zwi Tzur, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, who came to ask him to lift the embargo.
Messmer was reported to have told Gen. Tzur that he, as Defense Minister, could not lift the embargo and that the reconstruction of the Arab air forces destroyed by Israel, could not be considered an escalation of new weapons to the region. Messmer rejected at that time an Israeli protest against French Mirage deliveries to Lebanon on grounds that Lebanon did not participate in the Six-Day War-Nevertheless, Messmer left the door open at that time for a change of heart, saying that “if the climate should change for the better the French government would re-examine the question.”