WASHINGTON (Jan. 5)
After two days of silence on the subject, the White House affirmed yesterday that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger “did reflect the President’s views” when he warned in a Business Week interview last week that the United States would consider a resort to force to secure Middle East oil sources “in the gravest emergency.”
White House Press Secretary Ron Nessen made that statement to reporters after having told them the day before that President Ford read the interview and had nothing to add to it. Nessen said at the time that Kissinger “was giving a highly qualified answer to a hypothetical situation” that Kissinger said has not arisen. Kissinger himself stressed to reporters over the week-end that his remarks to Business Week had the President’s approval. “I reflect the views of the Presidents I do not make a major statement on foreign policy on which I do not reflect his views,” Kissinger said.
WHITE HOUSE TAKEN BY SURPRISE?
But the lapse of two days– from the time the Business Week interview appeared Thursday and copies of it were distributed to reporters at the State Department until Nessen’s acknowledgement yesterday that it reflected the President’s views — led some observers to conclude that the White House was taken by surprise.
Ford himself had refused to comment several days earlier on reports of U.S. contingency plans to seize Middle East oilfields on grounds that it would be “inappropriate” to comment. Observers believe that while such plans may indeed have come up in the National Security Council of which Kissinger is chairman, the President was clearly taken aback by their public disclosure.
Since the Business Week interview appeared, Kissinger has taken pains to stress that military action would be applied only in the gravest emergency, that he did not consider the present situation to constitute such an emergency and “I do not foresee it arising.” He reiterated his remarks to Business Week that force would not be used to lower oil prices but only if the industrialized nations were being strangled by Mideast oil policies.