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Australia May Contribute Troops to Sinai Force

The State Department welcomed today a statement by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser that Australia may contribute troops to the peacekeeping force which will patrol Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal next April.

Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said Australian participation in the 2500-member Multi-National Force and Observers (MFO) would be a “major asset.” But he stressed that his comments were based on news reports from Australia and that the State Department is continuing its policy of not giving a list of countries joining the MFO until the full force is completed.

Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East yesterday that the U.S. was “very optimistic” that several major European countries would join the force.

He mentioned in particular, France, Italy and Britain and indicated that Holland and Canada are also exploring participation. He said Australia has indicated it will join if the European countries do. Only Fiji, Colombia and Uruguay have announced participation so far. The U.S. itself will contribute more than 1,000 troops and civilians.

European participation was first revealed this week when President Francois Mitterrand of France said that France would be willing to participate in the Sinai force. Veliotes attributed the new European willingness to the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

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