Paris (Dec. 21)
President Francois Mitterrand has decided to postpone his official
visit to Israel in February to protest against annexation of the Golan Heights, diplomatic sources said yesterday. The Foreign Ministry called the report “premature” but refused to deny it.
The sources said Mitterrand informed Arab League Secretary General Chadli Klibi of his decision during a meeting in Paris last Friday. They said Mitterrand would put off announcing his decision for about two weeks so as not to embarrass Israel publicly. His official visit, due to start February 10, would be the first to Israel by a French President.
The sources said Mitterrand wanted to wait until the present storm of protests against Israel over the annexation calmed down before making his announcement. “The President wants this to be strictly government-to-government, he doesn’t want it played on the world stage,” a source said.
A carefully worded Ministry statement, released six hours after the report circulated said the President’s trip would be reviewed in the light of a United Nations debate in early January on the annexation. “The debate could be used as a pretext for postponing the visit but the real reason is already known,” a source said, referring to the annexation.
The Foreign Ministry statement said: “The President has said for a long time he would go to Israel. It is generally known that this visit will have great importance in the search for peace in the Middle East. The eventual consequences of the development of the situation in the region on the visit of the President will be evaluated after the United Nations debate at the beginning of January. All other information on this subject would be premature.”