ROME (Mar. 2)
President Francois Mitterrand of France said here that his country “does not intend … to become an umpire or mediator in the Middle East crisis.” Speaking to reporters here after an audience with Pope John Paul II yesterday, on the eve of his first official visit to Israel, Mitterrand declared: “We are tied by friendly relations with the Arab countries and with the Jewish State and I am not willing to trade one friendship with the other.”
The French President, who is due in Israel tomorrow for a 50-hour state visit, added: “I reaffirm, in any case, the right to existence of the State (of Israel) which must obtain from international society the guarantees which will permit it to live in peace.”
Mitterrand said he does not agree with all of Israel’s policies, but observed, “If I had to approve the policies of every country I went to, I wouldn’t go anywhere.” It is believed he expressed to the Pope the same views about Israel and the Middle East situation as he related to the journalists. The Pope reportedly mentioned the Vatican’s well known position in favor of “internationalization” of the holy places in Jerusalem.