Soviet-Egyptian relations, on a downtrend for most of the last five years, took another turn for the worse today with three Cairo newspapers printing strongly worded denunciations of Moscow.
The criticism centered on alleged soviet distribution to other Arab countries of a note accusing Egypt of trying to provoke an armed clash with Libya.
The texts in this morning's newspapers were in a format that usually means they are official government statements, disguised as new reports. These can usually be taken as official policy declarations or authorized leaks.
They said the Soviets had distributed to "a number of Arab countries" a note saying: "There have been increasing reports during the past few days that Egypt was escalating tension in its relations with Libya as the Egyptian armed forces have been concentrated on the Libyan border where they carry out military exercises. One can clearly observe attempts of an Egyptian military pressure against Libya to stir up an armed clash and encourage domestic acts against the legitimate government of a neighboring Arab country."
There was no independent confirmation of the authenticity of the Soviet note. The Egyptian press has been shrill and nearly hysterical in its anti-Libyan and anti-Soviet campaigns lately, but this report appears to have the weight of the government behind it. It comes when Egyptian-Libyan relations have reached their low point and the Soviet Union has openly given its support to the Libyans.
The Soviet support for the regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Egypt's troublesome western neighbor, is apparently becoming an impregnable barrier to any Egyptian-Soviet reconciliation.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahyn met yesterday for the fourth time in nine days with Soviet Ambassador Nikolai Polyakov, and was reported by the papers to have confronted him with the text of the note at that meeting.
There were also new reports circulating here that the Egyptians have moved as many as two divisions of troops to the Libyan border, which has led some analysts to interpret the Soviet note as a warning to the Egyptians against attacking Libya.
According to the Cairo newspapers, "The Soviet Union violated all diplomatic traditions by not submitting this memorandum to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry."
They said that "The support Quaddafi received from the Soviet Union indicates the hostile attitude the Soviets adopted toward the Egyptian people after it became clear to the officials in Moscow that crimes of murder, assassination and the throwing of bombs are planned by Qaddafi against the people of Egypt."
The note is also quoted as saying that Egypt wants to take over Libya to get its hands on that country's oil. While the Egyptians deny this, and in fact have rebuffed demands from Libya for a merger of the two countries, this is an idea that recurs and a certain plausibility.