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Australian P.m. Non-committal on Troops for Sinai Force

July 2, 1981
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Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser of Australia left for New York today after two days of talks with President Reagan and other members of the Administration in which he refused to commit his government to supply troops for the multi-national force to patrol Sinai.

“We are hopeful that Australia will agree to participate,” State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said today. He added that the Administration understands that Fraser wants to consult with his Cabinet before making a commitment.

Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that he hopes to have answers by the end of July from the governments that may contribute forces to patrol Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal next April.


Australia had been expected to be one of the key forces in the Sinai patrol. But just before Fraser left for the U.S. opposition developed within his governing Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party to having Australian troops participate in any military force except under United Nations sponsorship. The U.S. has had to form a multinational force under the provision of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty because it believes that any attempt to create such a force at the UN Security Council would be vetoed by the Soviet Union.

An agreement on the force by the U.S., Israel and Egypt was announced in Cairo June 25 by Michel Sterner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. Sterner said the forces would total 2000 to 3000 men of which the U.S. would provide 800, including 70 civilian observers. The force will be headed by a director general who would be an American. Next in line would be a military field commander, who would not be on American. Both appointments would be subject to the approval of Israel and Egypt.


Fischer had no comment today on Israeli press reports that Premier Menachem Begin has held up initialing the agreement because of his objection to one clause. “We do expect the text to be shortly initialed,” Fischer said. According to Haaretz, Begin objected to a clause allowing the force to be disbanded with the mutual agreement of Israel and Egypt. This clause was added after Egypt dropped its demand to have the force linked in some way to the UN.

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