PARIS (Jul. 19)
The French government appeared determined today to dispel rumors that France might replace Russia as Egypt’s chief mentor and supplier of military equipment in the aftermath of President Anwar Sadat’s ouster of Soviet advisers and military personnel from Egypt. The government announced today that its 1967 arms embargo on belligerents in the Six-Day War will continue to apply to Egypt and that France will sell no arms or other military equipment to that country.
The government spokesman, Jean-Philippe Lecat, made the announcement following a Cabinet meeting. He said “The French government’s position on the application of the arms embargo to the Middle East has not changed” as a result of Egypt’s break with the Soviet Union. He said the embargo would “continue to apply to all the former belligerents.”
The announcement was made following the world-wide circulation of a Lebanese newspaper report that France had expressed its readiness to assume the former Russian role in Egypt. In denying such intent, French government sources stressed that the Mideast embargo would not only continue in effect but that exports to non-belligerent countries would henceforth be strictly controlled. The sources were referring to French arms exports to Libya.
It was learned, however, that the Cabinet meeting, attended by President Georges Pompidou, did discuss the basic issue of whether France along with other West European countries, should not try to replace Russian influence in Egypt.
The daily Le Monde said in an editorial today that Sadat’s ouster of Russian personnel indicated a desire to return to the late President Nasser’s policy of non-alignment. “In acting as he did, the chief of state has attempted to flatter his countrymen’s feelings of national pride and to defuse an internal crisis,” Le Monde said.