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Mixed Reactions to Anti-hijack Move

Mixed reactions greeted the announcement here yesterday by seven major nations attending the Western economic summit conference that they had agreed on the toughest measures yet taken to combat aerial hijacking by terrorists and others. The countries, which, together, dominate world commercial air traffic, said they would cut off airline service to or from any country that harbors air hijackers, refuses to extradite or prosecute them “and or give back such airplanes.”

The agreement was announced by President Carter for the United States and by the leaders of Britain, France, Canada, West Germany, Italy and Japan at the close of the economic parlay. Observers agreed that the collective action was unprecedented and went far beyond the various United Nations conventions that condemn aerial hijacking but carry no penalties or binding pledges. However, many questions were raised–and left unanswered for the time being at least–as to how these measures will be implemented and enforced and whether, in fact, they could be.

But it was acknowledged that, at the very least, this get-tough policy by the leading industrial nations of the West would serve as a powerful deterrent to air piracy. The statement by seven nations said:

“The heads of state and government, concemed over terrorism and hostage taking, declare that their governments will intensify their common undertaking to fight international terrorism. In cases in which a country refuses to extradite or legally prosecute airplane hijackers and/or to give back such airplanes, the heads of state and government are unanimously agreed through their governments to take immediate action to cease all flights to that country. At the same time, their governments will implement steps to ban incoming flights by airlines of that country flying from any other country.”

The signatories also said they would urge other governments to join them in their commitment.

NUMBER OF QUESTIONS RAISED

The anti-hijack measures are in line with long-standing demands by the International Airline Pilots Association. Similar measures have also been urged over the years by Israel whose citizens have been among the most frequent victims of aerial terrorism. But some observers, after close study of the seven-nation statement, questioned its effectiveness, if not the seriousness of its intentions.

They asked, for example, how long the seven nations would wait before each agreed that it was necessary to enforce the air service ban against a country that provided haven for hijackers; how they would coordinate their decision; and what they would do if a country agreed to prosecute hijackers but then imposed only the mildest of penalties.

The “and/or” terminology raised the question of whether return of a hijacked aircraft would be sufficient to cancel penalties against a country that failed to prosecute or extradite hijackers. Political ramifications were also noted. Some diplomatic sources expressed doubt that France would take action against Algeria, before its independence an integral part of France, or that other countries dependent on oil, would impose aerial sanctions against Iraq and Libya which have supported terrorist groups responsible for hijackings.

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