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French Government Adopts a Wait and See Attitude Towards Arab Blacklisting of Banks

The French government has reportedly decided upon a “wait and see” attitude towards Arab blacklisting of a number of Jewish-owned banks described as “Zionist.” The government, according to certain reports, has decided not to intervene for the time being either way: not to protest against Arab intervention; or to support the demand by the Jewish banks that they be allowed to participate in loan underwriting as they have done in the past.

(See separate story from London.)

French officials explained that this decision was taken because of Finance Minister Pierre Fourcade’s absence. Fourcade is currently attending a ministerial committee in Brussels and the officials say, he has been unable to study the complaint lodged by one of the Jewish banks, Lazard Freres and Co. The other Jewish bank hit by the Arab measure, Rothschild Freres and Co. has so far refused to complain or make any comment on this issue.

A director of the Discount Bank told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his bank was not hit by the Arab boycott as the Discount “is known as Israeli and Zionist and was thus traditionally barred from loan floats undertaken in cooperation with Arab financial interests.” A first concrete result of the new situation came today when a government-owned company “Electricite de France” announced that it has indefinitely postponed a $40 million loan. Paris bankers make no secret of the fact that the loan was postponed for “diplomatic” reasons.

OFFICIAL PROTEST LODGED

Meanwhile, Jewish-controlled Lazard Freres, twice a victim of Arab blacklisting, has lodged an official protest with the French Finance Ministry. In January, under pressure from the Intra-Investment Co. of Beirut, the Banque France-Arabe, and the Kuwait Investment Co., the Freres Lazard Bank was excluded from underwriting two bond issues; one for Air France and one for the Compagnie du Rhone.

Lazard Freres had more than sufficient reason for being taken aback by the decision to exclude it from the Air France loan, since it has long had extremely good financial relations with the French airline. A spokesman for one of the Arab financial groups told the Paris Herald Tribune that it was “impossible for any Arab banks to participate in the EDF loan if Jewish banks are in.”

The spokesman went on to explain that the blacklist differs from one country to another. He mentioned the example of the French guided tour group, Club Mediterranee, which is blacklisted in the Persian Gulf states, Libya and Syria, but not in Egypt or Morocco, where the Club has large installations.

A deputy of the Presidential majority, Claude Gerard Marcus, has addressed a written question to Fourcade, asking for an explanation of the government’s position on the blacklist. The Governor of the Bank of France has also requested that a decision be made on a governmental level, authorizing the Central Bank to interrupt any loans where discrimination in choosing the underwriters could be proven.

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