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Flap over Eitan’s Reported Statement About Sadat’s Regime

Defense Ministrer Ariel Sharon today denied local press reports that he had a “tough telephone conversation” from Washington with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, criticizing him for remarks about the instability of President Anwar Sadat’s regime and the Israeli-Egyptian peace process he reportedly made last week in an address at Givat Olga near Hadera.

Maariv quoted him as saying: “We should not be deluded by false hopes. There is peace with Egypt. But it is in danger. There is unrest in Egypt and Sadat could go and everything would be over. In Egypt, everything depends on one man.” The army spokesman denied that Eitan had made these remarks, saying he had been misquoted. But the correspondent of Maariv, who was present at the Givat Olga meeting, said today that his report was completely accurate and that he had presented a full literal quotation. The paper supported its correspondent in an editorial which said that a Chief of Staff should be “man enough to admit frankly to mistakes.”

According to reports from Cairo, the Egyptians have cancelled mutual visits by the Israeli and Egyptian Chiefs of Staff. But Eitan’s office and the Defense Ministry said no formal invitation had been received and there was therefore no questions of a cancellation. Sharon, who returned from Washington today, indicated he would be discussing the affair with Eitan but added: “Any talks between the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff will not be carried out before the press.”

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