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U.s., Israel Agree on New Procedure to Soften Blockade’s Impact on Eilat

The United States and Israel have agreed upon a new procedure to resolve the problem of Israeli ships headed to Eilat being stopped in the Straits of Tiran by the U.S.-led United Nations naval force blockading Iraq.

Under a new plan presented by the Americans this week to Gad Yaacobi, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Israel would give U.N. forces five days’ notice for cargo ships weighing over 8,000 tons, and the vessels would then be permitted free passage to Eilat.

Smaller ships would still have to be checked.

The new procedure should be implemented within a matter of days, after the agreement is circulated by the Americans to other members of the multinational force, Avner Tabori, spokesman for the Israeli Mission to the United Nations, said Monday.

The naval blockade, under the auspices of the U.N. Security Council, was put into effect to prevent the supply of war materiel and commercial goods to Iraq via the Jordanian port of Aqaba, located a dozen miles from Eilat.

But officials in Jerusalem say it is absurd to presume that Israel, a longtime foe of Iraq and a victim of its Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War, would be shipping military equipment or goods of any kind to Baghdad.

Israelis have also complained that ships of other nations have been permitted to go through to Aqaba with no problem.

Ships bound for Israel have been rerouted around the Sinai, through the Suez Canal and to Israel’s Mediterranean ports of Ashdod and Haifa. As a result, Eilat’s port has been nearly closed down.

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