WASHINGTON (Jan. 8)
Vice-President Gerald Ford hinted today that continuation of the Arab oil embargo could lead to a curtailment of food shipments to Arab countries where food commodities are perennially in short supply. “North Africa and the Middle East have some of the greatest food deficits in the world,” Ford said addressing a luncheon meeting of the Manufacturing Chemists Association here.
“Close an oil valve in the Middle East and you threaten to shut down a farm tractor in our Middle West. Halt that tractor and some people in the world will hunger for bread,” the Vice-President said. Although he expressed “optimism” that the oil embargo would soon end. Ford observed that a “circular flow” was required to keep the industrialized nations running and to provide the Middle East with its basic needs, meaning a flow of oil to the west and a flow of food to the Mideast.
State Department sources, asked to comment on Ford’s remarks and on remarks by Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger Sunday which some Arab circles took as a threat of U.S. military intervention to restore the flow of oil, said today that these remarks were not threats “so much as a straightforward description of facts which have to be regarded in their largest context.”
Schlesinger, appearing on a television interview, had warned that if the oil embargo continues, the American people would call for some form of action to keep oil flawing to the industrialized nations. The sources said that Ford’s and Schlesinger’s remarks were wholly consistent with what Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has been saying.
Meanwhile, reports that Kissinger plans to visit Cairo and Jerusalem within the next 10 days to try to promote an agreement between Israel and Egypt on a formula for a separation of forces were again denied by the State Department. George Vest, Department spokesman, repeated today what he said yesterday, that there were “no plans” for Kissinger to visit the Mideast.