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U.S. Denies Portugal Warned Azores Cannot Be Used As Base to Re-fuel Planes in Event of New Mideast

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The State Department denied today that it has been informed by Portugal that the United States could not use the Azores island air base to re-fuel planes bringing supplies to Israel in the event of a new Middle East war. The denial followed reports that Portugal had informally informed the United States of this new policy.

In addition, Portuguese Prime Minister Vasco des Santos Concalves told a press conference in Lisbon yesterday that Portugal would not allow the Azores air base to be used against the Arabs but that Portugal would honor its treaties and agreements until an elected government takes office. The elections are April 25.

State Department spokesman Robert Anderson said today that “We were not informed (by Portugal) before or after the Prime Minister’s statement.” He said that “this subject (supplies for Israel) has never arisen in the discussion so far. Anderson said the last time the principal negotiators for the U.S. and Portugal met was in January and “at that time the Portuguese informed us they preferred to wait until after the elections to resume negotiations.”

Asked about the U.S. government’s reaction to Concalves’ statement, Anderson replied, “We have no particular reaction to it at this time.” He said that presumably the subject would be discussed when negotiations resume. The agreement for using the Azores base as a re-fueling stop for American airplanes was signed in 1946 and expired in February 1974.

Portuguese permission to U.S. planes to re-fuel at Lajes base enroute to Israel during the Yom Kippur War brought a total embargo of Arab oil to Portugal. After the coup that installed a new regime in Portugal a year ago, the new leadership indicated it regarded such use of the base as an obstacle to better relations with the Arab countries. Since the coup, Portugal has exchanged ambassadors with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Kuwait, Mauritania, Algeria and Iraq.

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