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Waldheim Pessimistic About Mideast

Secretary General Kurt Waldheim told a press conference today it was doubtful there could be a third extension of the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights unless there was movement toward a peace settlement. He called the Mideast situation extremely serious.

The UNDOF mandate ends next May, a fact leading to speculation that Waldheim was raising the prospect of a pullout of UN forces five months before that date to put additional pressure on the two sides and possibly on the United States and the Soviet Union to achieve a renewal of negotiations. The mandate of the UN forces between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai expires in April.

The Secretary General cited his talks in Damascus last November with President Assad of Syria which led to renewal of the UNDOF mandate. Waldheim said Assad made it clear then that this did not mean he was ready to accept a third six-month extension. The UN chief executive said today that unless there was a breakthrough toward a settlement, either in step-by-step pacts or at the dormant Geneva Mideast peace conference, the situation this year “will be extremely serious.”

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