Balking on Sinai peace force

Forming a Sinai peacekeeping force may prove to be a greater test of American diplomacy than anyone realized, Monitor correspondent Daniel Southerland reports.

The United States has had plans to approach 13 nations to request participation on behalf of Egypt and Israel, and it is counting heavily on Australia and New Zealand to contribute troops to the planned multinational peacekeeping force.

But both countries have reservations about joining such a potentially risky venture. They want to know more about the other countries that might participate. Because they have extensive, and growing, trade relations with wealthy Arab nations, they want to know more about the attitudes of such nations toward their participation.

US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., here for meetings with the foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand, has spent a good part of his time covering such questions.

It has not helped that Singapore has rejected a US request that it participate. An Australian newspaper, the Age, reports that Singapore will not join because the Middle East is far from home, the peacekeeping force will not operate under a UN mandate, and Singapore's Army is largely national-service trainees.

Like Singapore, Australia is reported to be wary of getting involved in an uncertain undertaking so far from its own sphere of influence and direct national interest. Also, it has already committed its relatively small Army to a peacekeeping force for South-West Afr ica, or Namibia.

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