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Pompidou Arrives in U.s.; One Thousand Protesters Stream into Washington

February 24, 1970
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President Georges Pompidou, of France, arrived here today for a nine-day official visit beclouded by the crisis and conflict in the Middle East and France’s sale of military jets to Arab regimes. M. Pompidou landed at Andrews Air force Base and was whisked away to Camp David Maryland, the presidential retreat, to be greeted by President Richard M. Nixon. Administration officials were reported to be concerned lest demonstrations protesting France’s Middle East policy create unpleasant incidents during the presidential visit. As far as President Nixon and his advisors are concerned, M. Pompidou’s visit is seen as an effort to repair Franco-American relations which suffered some severe strains during the tenure of former President Charles De Gaulle. But the Middle East is almost certain to figure in the talks between President Nixon and President Pompidou, a region in which their respective policies diverge.

A protest rally against French Government policies in the Middle East was staged here today, sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington. An estimated six thousand persons from eastern U.S. cities were expected to participate in the rally but only about a thousand were present. Most of those on hand were either from the Greater Washington area or Pennsylvania. The demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park directly across from the White House at noon and then marched in groups of about one hundred to the George Washington Monument grounds about a quarter of a mile away. Bearing placards that read “French Design for Peace is a Mirage” and “Viva La France a Bas Pompidou” the demonstrators milled about for a short while until several groups, both young and old alike, began traditional Israeli folk dances and songs.

SPEAKERS DEPLORE FRENCH MIDDLE EAST POLICY; CALL FOR PEACE

Theodore R. Mann, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Philadelphia, presided at the rally, where protesters sang the national anthem and Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem. Rabbi Nathan Abramowitz, President of the Washington Board of Rabbis, offered the opening prayer in which he called upon the Lord to “give strength and guidance in Israel’s struggle for peace.” Among the other speakers were U.S. Senator Richard Schwieker, Republican of Pennsylvania; Victor G. Reuther, international labor leader of the United Auto Workers of America; and the Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The speakers deplored France’s Middle East policy, especially the recent sale of some one hundred Mirage jet fighters to Libya, noting how easy it would be for the aircraft to reach Egyptian hands. The rally took place just about three hours before French President Georges Pompidou arrived here.

(French officials said in Paris today that M. Pompidou anticipated conversations of “complete frankness” with Mr. Nixon. These are likely to include France’s impending sale of over 100 Mirage jets to Libya, a country experts say neither needs nor can operate the aircraft. M. Pompidou, it is believed, will endeavor to convince the Nixon Administration that France’s Mideast policy is not aimed against Israel, that it is designed to re-establish a French presence in the Mediterranean area and serve as a counter-weight to Soviet penetration of the region.)

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