U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim sounded a blue keynote for Tuesday's opening of the 32nd U.N. General Assembly today, expressing skepticism that significant progress will be made soon on any of the major world problems.
Looking more tired and dour than usual at his annual pre-assembly press conference, Waldheim included the Middle East, southern Africa, Cyprus and the North-South economic dialogue on his gloomy list of stalemated issues.
He perked up for only one optimistic comment, saying progress is likely on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks during the meetings between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and U.S. officials in Washington later this week.
Waldheim's blunt skepticism was made all the more dramatic by its contrast to his usual tone of cautious optimism and to the hopes being expressed in Washington about possible diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East and southern Africe.
In the middleEast, Waldheim said, "there is absolutely no rapprochement" between the Israelis and Arabs on the crucial issue of Palestinian rights and a negotiating tole for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Although he hopes that current American efforts break the deadlock, Waldheim said he seen no formula for achieving such a breakthrough.
The three-month-long assembly session is expected to be setting for intense backstage talks between the United States and the Arab and Israeli foreign ministers, as well as for an Arab drive to isolate Israel internationally and drive a public wedge between the United States and Israel.
Egypt has asked for a special assembly debate on Israel's establishment of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories - a policy that the United States has openly criticized.
Israeli diplomats assume that the United States will use the assembly to put pressure on Israel for negotiating concessions. They fear that the Americans might go one step further and join current efforts to revise U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 - the outline of peace that constitutes that ground rules of the Geneva peace talks - by including in it guarantees of Palestinian political rights.Rominia is drafting amendments to the 1976 resolution.
At today's press conference, Waldheim critized the Israel proposal for continued military control over the West Bank and increased autonomy for the Arabs living there. He said the plan, which was submitted to the UNited States today by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, would not contribute to a solution and "is not in conformity with U.N. resolutions."
Waldheim was not specific about his reasons for skepticism about the chances of American negotiating efforts in Rhodesai and Nambia. These issues are expected to share the assembly spotlight with the Middle East. Diplomats believe that as long as the Africans see some prospect that these negotiations can move forward, the U.N. debates on these issues will be relatively restrained.
Waldheim also noted the possiblity of confrontation between the Third World and industrialized nations over the agenda for negotiating economic issued. He also confirmed the stalemate in the Cyprus talks.
Waldheim attributed his optimism on the strategic arms negotiations to a meeting he ahd with Soviet lezder Lenoid Brezhnev in Moscow this month. He said he emerged with "the impression that the Soviet Union is seriously interested in continuing efforts to conclude a new SALT agreement."
Although the Russian stressed the need for American concessions, Waldhwim said they made it clear that there are question "left open" that must and could be settled.
The assembly is likely to be a testing ground for another Soviet-American issue - the Carter administration's global advocacy of human rights.
President Carter, breaking precedent, will personally deliver the American policy statement to the assembly Oct. 4, and his speech will be carefully weighed for its human-right content.
The President plans to spend two full days at the assembly, meeting with foreign ministers and other delegation leaders.