Rapprochement Seen U.S. Sending Diplomatic Mission to Iraq; First Since ’67

The United States government is sending a diplomatic mission to Iraq in a move that was interpreted here today as a further indication of American rapprochement with Arab governments with which it has not had formal diplomatic relations since the Six-Day War. State Department spokesman Charles Bray announced today that foreign service officers Arthur Lowrie and Ronald Main will go to Baghdad to establish an American interest section at the Belgian embassy there. The Belgian government has been handling American interests in Iraq since the Baghdad government severed relations with the US in 1967.

The US and Iraq had agreed following the 1967 break that each country would be free to establish a diplomatically staffed interest section in the other country. Iraq immediately set up a three-man staff in Washington, but the US had not taken a similar step. Bray said that the US is establishing the interest section now because it is a propitious time but he did not elaborate.

He said under questioning that the US had been discussing with Iraqi officials the American option of establishing the section. The US resumed diplomatic relations with Yemen a month ago and with the Sudan only this week. Asked whether the development with Iraq indicated a new pattern of development, Bray responded that the fact of resumption of diplomatic relations with Yemen and the Sudan plus the staffing of the American interest section in Iraq are fruits of American efforts in recent years which were inspired directly by Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ view that the US had compelling reasons to reopen or maintain a diplomatic dialogue with as many states as possible.

Bray said that the State Department is “very pleased with the State of relationships” with countries in the Middle East, including those with Israel. Asked to comment on whether improved relations would occur with Syria and Egypt, Bray said it would be premature to speculate on other countries.

Bray was asked why the time was “propitious” after Iraq, only a month ago, nationalized oil interests shared by American, British and French companies. He answered that “oil was not a consideration” in setting up the interest section.

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