Peres Warns Saudi May Become a Serious Military Factor in Mideast

Defense Minister Shimon Peres warned that Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth could turn that country from a desert state into a serious military factor in the Middle East, that he expected Syria to continue its hardline stand against any settlement with Israel at least until after the American Presidential elections in 1976, and that statements by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat indicated that the spirit of the recent interim agreement is fading fast as far as Cairo is concerned.

Peres spoke at the Histadrut Solidarity Conference attended by 750 trade union delegates from the United States and Canada. The conference adopted a resolution denouncing the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly Monday.

Peres said he would not be surprised if oil dollars turned Saudi Arabia into a military phenomena leading to the possibility of a confrontation between the generals and the princes with a victory for the generals not to be ruled out.

ROLE OF SYRIA ASSESSED

He said that Syria would remain in the Soviet camp because the USSR continues to supply it with weapons and there is no likelihood that the U.S. would pressure Israel for concessions to Syria during a Presidential election year. Peres said he could not predict whether Syria will agree to renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) which expires at the end of this month. He noted, however, that the Syrians have waited in the past until the last minute before announcing their decision.

Peres said Syria had ambitions to create a Greater Syria within the ancient “fertile crescent” of the Middle East that would embrace the present Syrian state, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and an Arab Palestine. He said, however, that the Israeli army deters the Syrians from going to war to effect such a plan.

The Defense Minister said that the possibility that a new Mideast war would be a war of long-range missiles did not diminish Israel’s needs for a territorial buffer. He said the Arab states, with their large standing armies needed only 6-8 hours to mobilize whereas Israel’s army, made up largely of reservists requires 24 hours. The 18-hour gap is the critical element and, therefore, territory counts heavily for Israel, he said.

Peres said it was naive not to see that the spirit of the new Sinai agreement was fading on Egypt’s part but said Israel would carry out the agreement in spirit and practice. He said he was not happy about the U.S. agreement to provide Egypt with two nuclear power plants, but added that if Egypt is to receive reactors it was preferable that it received them from the U.S.

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