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Reagan Administration Stresses That Resumption of U.s.-iraqi Relations is Not Harmful to Israel

The Reagan Administration, in announcing today that the U.S. and Iraq are resuming diplomatic relations, stressed that the move will not be harmful to Israel.

“It has no effect on our relations with Israel which continue to be stronger than ever,” a senior Administration official said in briefing reporters on the move which took effect immediately.

The resumption of relations, which were broken by Iraq following the 1967 Six-Day War, was announced after Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz met with President Reagan at the White House. He had met earlier with Secretary of State George Shultz at the State Department and with Vice President George Bush at the White House.

The two countries have maintained interest sections which are now upgraded to Embassies. Ambasadors will be appointed as soon as possible, according to the White House.

MOVE CALLED A BILATERAL STEP

The Administration official stressed that the move was a “bilateral step” which resulted from the “de facto normalization of the U.S.-Iraqi dialogue that has developed gradually” since the U.S. opened its interest section at the Belgian Embassy in Baghdad in 1972. The Iraqi interest section in Washington was at the Indian Embassy.

The official said that the move was not aimed against Iran with which Iraq has been at war since 1980. He said the U.S. would like to improve its “dialogue” with Teheran too, once Iran “ceases its support of international terrorism” and appears willing to enter negotiations to end the war with Iraq.

Until the Reagan Administration took office, the U.S. also considered Iraq as one of the leading supporters of international terorism. The terrorist Abu Nidal, responsible for attacks on Israeli and Jewish institutions abroad as well as on representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, made his headquarters in Baghdad where he died earlier this month.

However, the Administration official stressed today that the U.S. feels it is important to establish relations with Iraq which he called a “major player” in the Middle East.

VIEW OF IRAQI POLICY

While maintaining that he could not see what role Iraq will have in the Middle East peace effort, the official said there has been an “evolution” in Iraqi policy since the 1970’s and that Iraq no longer sees itself as a “front line state” in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Iraqis, while concerned about the Palestinians, now say they will accept any solution acceptable to the Palestinians, the official said. He noted that Iraq has called the relations between Jordan and the Palestinians “natural and acceptable.”

The official added that at a meeting with Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. NY) in 1982, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said that “a condition of security is necessary for both Israel and the Palestinians and that no responsible Arab leader looks forward to the destruction of Israel.”

As further evidence of Iraq’s new moderation, the official cited its support of Jordan’s resumtion of relations with Egypt, Iraq’s support of the Palestine National Council meeting now going on in Amman, and that Iraq has “acknowledged” President Reagan’s September 1, 1982 Middle East peace initiative and the Arab League summit meeting statement in Fez, Morocco.

NOT A ‘TILT’ TOWARD IRAQ

The official maintained repeatedly that the resumption of relations with Iraq is not a “tilt” toward that Arab country in its war with Iran. He said the U.S. continues to want the “earliest possible peaceable settlement of the war” in a way that “preserves the integrity and sovereignty” of both countries.

He stressed that the U.S. has never sold arms to Iraq and will not do so now. The official said that Aziz’s scheduled meeting with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is nothing more than a courtesy call.

However, he said that Aziz, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, expressed appreciation of U.S. policy to “choke off” the supply of arms to Iran from Western countries. The official maintained that this would have continued to be U.S. policy even if diplomatic relations had not been resumed.

The major purpose of Iraq in resuming diplomatic relations with the U.S. was a “desire to balance its relations with the Soviet Union,” the senior U.S. official said.

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