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Canadian Government Appears to Be Waffling on Embassy Move

The new Canadian government, under mounting pressure from the business community and the Arab league ,appeared today to equivocate on the pledge by Prime Minister Joe Clark to move Canada’s Embassy in Israel from : Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In a Canadian Broadcasting Co. radio interview this morning, Flora MacDonald, Minister of External Affairs, stated that “moving the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem remains the goal of our efforts as it has been promised by Prime Minister Joe Clark during the election campaign,” but “it is not, however; a question which can be settled the day after elections.”

MacDonald added, “Our policy will take in to account the interests and viewpoints of the United States and the Arab countries.” The viewpoint of the U.S. as expressed by the State Department yesterday was that any emulation of Canada’s decision “would pre-judge the case for us.”

( In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry expected to have no difficulty in finding a place for the Canadian Embassy despite the city’s chronic housing shortage. With 52 persons, the Canadian Embassy is the fifth largest in Israel and is presently housed in a five-story building on Tel Aviv’s seafront. Yosef Chiech-anover, the Foreign Ministry’s director general, plans to meet with Canadian Ambassador Edward Lee at the end of the month to discuss the proposed transfer.)

The External Affairs, Minister’s remarks followed a request for an interview with Clark by the representative of the Arab League in Ottawa and the ambassadors of 18 Arab League member countries. The Ambassador of Morocco was delegated to express their “profound protest” against the contemplated move. At the same time, the Ambassador of Iraq, Faiq Mukhlis, stated at a press conference that his country would “break off diplomatic relations with Canada should the embassy be moved to Jerusalem. ” The Ambassador of Jordan, Waleed lash, warned that such a move would be “very serious” and would affect Canada’s relations with the Arab world ” on all levels.”

The organized business community of Canada took a grave view of the matter. Sam Hughes, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce which represents 125,000 businessmen, said today, “If the Arab threats become a reality, then the business community will lose an opportunity it is now enjoying in dealing with the Middle East. ” A spokesman for the Canadian Manufacturers Association said ” The proper course is not to needlessly step into controversial waters with out having tested them first.” Fear was expressed in other business quarters that Canada could lose. 55, 700 jobs and $1.6 billion worth of oil imports if the Arab countries took reprisals and cut off trade with Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, an independent government body, 63 jobs are created for every $1 million of exports. Canada exported $885 million in merchandise to 17 Middle East countries last year, including Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Canada also would stand to lose $1.6 billion worth of imported goods of which 98 percent is petroleum, if Arab countries turned off the oil taps. Canada presently imports 500,000 barrels of oil a day from the Middle East.

CLARK EXPERTISE QUESTIONED

Liberal MP Louis Duclos, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the former-Minister of External Affairs Don Jamieson, today blasted Clark’s promise to move the Canadian Embassy to Jerusalem as an ” illustration of the proper lack of knowledge of international affairs in Mr. Clark’s party,” the Progressive Conservatives. Duclos said that when Clark announced the plan during the election campaign, “I thought it was just political opportunism to win a few more votes in the Toronto area. Now I realize he didn’t know what he was doing. Under the present circumstances there is no justification for taking such an irresponsible step. Canada is going to be in a terrible situation in the face of the Arab oil c{SPAN}###{/SPAN} A responsible leader has to make decisions in accordance with the needs of the country and not just a tiny group. The status of Jerusalem is the most important issue in the Middle East and the Middle East is the most important issue in the world, ” Duclos said.

But Rabbi Gunther Plaut, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, today praised Clark’s promised move.” I am sure the Jews of Canada will greatly welcome this and others will too. I commend Mr. Clark very strongly.” He added that countries have been” Russy-footing” for too long. “If (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat can go to Jerusalem, so can other governments,” Plaut said.

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