LONDON (Jul. 29)
The prevarication, evasions and harassment by the Ugandan authorities in connection with the disappearance and probable murder of Mrs, Dora Bloch, the missing Air France hijack hostage, precipitated Britain’s first diplomatic break with a Common-wealth country. The severance of diplomatic relations with the Ugandan government of President Idi Amin was announced to the House of Commons yesterday by Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland.
Reviewing the events surrounding the apparent murder of the 75-year-old widow who held dual British and Israeli citizenship, Crosland declared that “The events of recent weeks have again demonstrated that it is not possible for our High Commission effectively to discharge its normal duties” in Uganda.
He said the High Commission had made repeated inquiries as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Bloch who was last seen in a Kampala hospital a day after Israeli commandos rescued more than 100 hijack hostages held by pro-Palestinian terrorists at Entebbe Airport. “They all got nowhere without Uganda’s cooperation and there is no sign that this is forthcoming.” Crosland said.
STRONG SUPPORT IN PARLIAMENT
Crosland expressed hope that the break would be only temporary. The move, however, is overwhelmingly supported in Parliament and among the public. Amin’s claim that Mrs. Bloch had been returned to the airport before the rescue occurred and therefore was the responsibility of the Israelis was seen here as patently, false inasmuch as an official of the High Commission visited her at Mulago Hospital on July 4, a day after the rescue.
The subsequent expulsion of that official and of Acting High Commissioner James Horrocks from Uganda and the harassment of his replacement constituted a series of provocations that led to the breach. The breach means that Britain has given up any hope of ascertaining the fate of Mrs. Bloch from the Amin regime. France has agreed to look after British interests in Kampala.
The government had delayed that step out of concern for the safety of the 500 British subjects resident in Uganda at the time of the hijacking. There were still some 200 Britons in Uganda yesterday and, for their sake, Crosland called for “some restraint in language.” He stressed that “We have no quarrel with the people of Uganda and we look forward to the time when it may be possible to renew our relationship.”
(By Maurice Samuelson)