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Soviet Consular Team Insists Israel Visit Not Political

A Soviet consular delegation met briefly with Foreign Ministry officials here Tuesday, insisting the visit to Israel, the first in 20 years by an official Soviet group, was technical and without political significance.

Yaacov Aviad, head of the Foreign Ministry’s consular division, the senior Israeli to meet with the visitors from Moscow, described their discussion as “extremely positive” and “a good beginning.”

Aviad declined to respond to suggestions by reporters that the three-man Soviet mission, accompanied by staff, seemed too large for the stated purpose of their visit — to review the status of Soviet nationals and Soviet property in Israel.

The leader of the Soviet delegation, Yevgeny Antipov, who heads the consular department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, showed no disinclination to speak to Israeli reporters and was in fact interviewed on the Army Radio Tuesday morning.

The Army Radio opens its daily news program with greetings by a prominent personality. On Tuesday morning it was Antipov who delivered a cheerful “Good morning, Israel” in Hebrew.

NO RECIPROCAL VISIT NOW

After his meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Antipov told reporters a reciprocal visit to Moscow by an Israeli delegation was precluded because there are no Israeli nationals or Israeli property in the USSR.

Antipov scolded Israel for extending citizenship to Soviet Jews who seek to emigrate. He said it was a violation of Soviet law, which does not permit dual citizenship.

The Soviet group was scheduled to call at the Finnish embassy in Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon. The Embassy has represented Soviet interests in Israel since Moscow broke diplomatic relations in 1967.

Later the team will meet with Soviet nationals who are permanent residents of Israel. In addition to functionaries the Russian Orthodox Church, they are mainly Russian women who married Israeli Arabs who studied in the USSR.

A group of Soviet immigrants demonstrated outside the Foreign Ministry while the meeting with the Soviet delegation was taking place. Among them was Ilana Friedman, sister of long-time refusenik Ida Nudel, and Yosef Mendelevich, chairman of the Jerusalem-based Soviet Jewry Information Center.

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