Sinai Peacekeeping Force Accord Likely to Be Initialed Next Week

The U.S.-Israel-Egypt agreement on the Sinai peacekeeping force is likely to be initialed next week if last minute minor hitches can be overcome this weekend. U.S. chief negotiator, Michael Sterner flew from Israel to Egypt today with several proposed amendments in the draft text inserted by Premier Menachem Begin.

Both Sterner and Israeli officials expressed their confidence that the Egyptians would agree to the changes and the agreement could be wrapped up. Sterner is due to report on the agreement to a Congressional committee in Washington next week.

One last minute problem concerns the immunities to be enjoyed by soldiers and civilians serving with the projected “multinational force and observers.” The U.S. is pressing Israel to agree — as Egypt has agreed — that the 3000-odd personnel enjoy full immunity from criminal prosecution while in Israel. Israel’s Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir, is baulking at this. Israeli sources said today that they expected some sort of compromise to be worked out.

The textual points inserted by Begin mainly concern language regarding possible future changes in the force’s status, such as its substitution at some future date by a United Nations’ force. Begin wants it made perfectly clear in the agreement that any changes would require the express agreement of both parties to the peace treaty — Israel and Egypt.

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