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U.S. Hopes Mideast Progress Still Possible Despite Brezhnev’s Postponement of Mideast Visit

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The State Department had no comment today on the sudden postponement of Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev’s visit to Cairo and two other Arab capitals scheduled for next month. Asked about its possible effects on the progress of Middle East peace negotiations. Department spokesman Paul Hare said that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has consistently felt, and has stated publicly, that progress was still possible by following his step-by-step approach to a Middle East settlement.

Hare said that after Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s visit to Washington earlier this month it was felt that there would be further negotiations in the Middle East and that has not changed. He also said he had no knowledge of any change in reported plans for a return visit to Washington by Allon, possibly next month.

Hare had no comment on a report today by syndicated columnist Jack Anderson that Kissinger had angrily blamed Israel for lack of progress toward peace at a secret White House foreign policy briefing for Congressional leaders recently.

(There was no official comment from Israel today on the postponement of Brezhnev’s Middle East trip. Unofficial sources in Jerusalem indicated, however, that if the postponement reflected new differences between Egypt and the Soviet Union, it was good for Israel and the West. See separate story.)

The postponement was announced today simultaneously by the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency in Cairo and by Tass, the official Soviet news agency, in Moscow. The Tass announcement said the postponement was by mutual agreement and that “a new mutually acceptable time for the visit will be decided later.”

RIFT BETWEEN MOSCOW, CAIRO SEEN

Brezhnev was to have arrived in Cairo Jan. 13 and to have gone on to Damascus and Baghdad. The extension of his visit to Syria and Iraq, arranged after his trip to Egypt was announced, is believed to have been intended as a gesture of reassurance to the governments of those countries whose policies have been closer to Russia’s than have been the policies of the Egyptian government.

Observers here in fact believe the postponement may have been due to new differences arising between Moscow and Cairo. The announcement was made two days after the arrival in Moscow of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy and Minister of War Gen. Mohammed Abdel Gamassi. They were reportedly sent to the Soviet capital by President Anwar Sadat in response to an urgent message from Brezhnev on Dec. 26. The two high ranking Egyptian government officials were believed to have gone to Moscow to make final arrangements for Brezhnev’s Cairo visit and to negotiate new Soviet arms deliveries to Egypt.

Some observers here believe that the arms negotiations ran into difficulties over terms. They suggested that Soviet leaders may have insisted that Egypt accept a new influx of Soviet advisors and technicians along with the weapons systems it seeks.

Sadat’s ouster of some 20,000 Soviet advisors and military personnel from Egypt in 1972 led to a cooling of relations between Cairo and Moscow which the planned Brezhnev visit was expected to thaw. It also led to a rapprochement between Egypt and the United States, culminated by the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries this year.

SADAT’S VIEWS DISTURB MOSCOW

Some sources said today that Moscow was disturbed by signs that Sadat still retains hope that the step-by-step diplomacy which U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has pursued in the Middle East to the exclusion of Russia, can bring about a satisfactory settlement.

The Kremlin also feels that Sadat has not been sufficiently forceful in his support for reconvening the Geneva peace conference, a major objective of Soviet diplomacy in the Middle East. Given the Russian misgivings, the postponement of Brezhnev’s visit, apparently on Soviet initiative, could be seen as a waning to Sadat not to rely on American peace efforts to achieve a settlement without Soviet cooperation, the sources said.

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