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Haig Confident Peace Process Will Continue After Israel Leaves Sinai

Secretary of State Alexander Haig said he was confident that Israel and Egypt would continue the peace process after Israel’s final withdrawal from Sinai April 25.

He told a press conference in Bal Harbour, Fla., last Friday, after meeting privately with the AFL-CIO executive council, that his two visits to Israel and Egypt last month and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to Washington earlier this month, left him “very confident that both parties have pledged themselves to continue with the process.” The press conference was piped into the State Department in Washington.

Haig had no direct comment, although he indicated his denial, on a report in The Washington Post that he was concerned that Egypt would rejoin the other Arab states after it gets back the Sinai. The article, by Bob Woodward, one of the newspaper’s editors, claimed to be based on notes taken over the past year at staff meetings in the State Department. The notes, the Post said, were taken by one of the participants at these staff meetings.

Ambassador Moshe Arens of Israel also refused to comment when asked about the article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as he was leaving the State Department after paying a courtesy call on Undersecretary James Buckley.

WORRIED ABOUT EGYPTIANS FUTURE ROLE

According to the article, Haig said at the January 4 staff meeting that “It’s worrisome that Egypt is slipping back into (the) Arab world, don’t want autonomy discussion (on Palestinian question) … Saudis (have) an arrogant mentality that is absolutely devastating.” Overall, Haig said the dangerous Middle East situation “comes from kicking Israel in the ass.”

Haig also said during the January 18 staff meeting, according to the Post, that he returned from his Mideast trip convinced that once Israel returns Sinai to Egypt, the delicate web that ties the United States and Egypt together will unravel quickly and Washington will be the loser.

“Egypt will go back into (the) Arab world with (the) U.S. isolated as Israel’s sole defender,” Haig was quoted as saying. Also in the January 18 meeting, he said that before going to the Mideast, “My nose told me that a post-Sadat Egypt was going to be very different. Only thing keeping Egypt from going back to pre-peace treaty stance is the Sinai territory return. Whole atmosphere (in Cairo) 180 degrees different from last May,” during an earlier Haig visit when President Anwar Sadat was still alive.

Haig also reportedly said at this meeting that the new situation under Mubarak “had led to paranoia in Israel …. With Arab resources and Europeans panting for military sales we need to keep Egyptians engaged in peace process …. If no hope, then we need to reassess our relations with the region.”

On the peacekeeping force in Sinai, Haig said in an October 15 State Department staff meeting that Lord Carrington, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, was a “duplicitous bastard,” a reference to an apparent British claim that Saudi Arabia was putting some kind of pressure on Britain, according to the Post report.

Haig said, the Post report continued: “European friends — just plain cowardly. British lying through their teeth on MFO (Multinational Force and Observers, the Sinai peacekeeping force). Saudis never pressured British and Europeans on MFO.”

When Haig was asked in Bal Harbour about the article, he said: “First, it couldn’t have been me speaking — it was too clear. Second, I don’t recall at any period in my year’s incumbency in the State Department such exiting staff meetings, and third, I hope this finally puts to rest the charge that there is no imagination in the State Department.”

In London, the British Foreign Office declined to comment on The Washington Post story.

EGYPT COMMITTED TO PEACE PROCESS

In Cairo, Prime Minister Fouad Mohieddin said yesterday in a policy statement to the People’s Assembly (Parliament) that his country was committed to continue with its present Mideast policy after Israel hands back the final portion of Sinai.

Meanwhile, it was reported in Cairo that Mubarak is to make his first trip to Israel next month, but an exact date remains to be fixed. At the same time, it was reported that Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir is scheduled in the Egyptian capital tomorrow on a three-day visit to discuss preparations for Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai.

He will be seeing Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali and other senior officials, but no meeting is scheduled with Richard Fairbanks, the new U.S. special envoy to the autonomy talks, who arrived in Cairo today from Israel where he had discussed the autonomy issue with Premier Menachem Begin and other senior officials.

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