Panamanian leader Brig. Gen. Omar Torrijos will set off Saturday on a whirlwind 10-nation tour designed to gather more international support for the recently signed Panama Canal treaties and to diminish opposition to their ratification in the U.S. Senate.
The two-week trip will include an unofficial two-day stopover in Washington as well as visits to the leaders of Canada, Israel and seven Western European countries.
The hastily scheduled tour begins with Torrijos' arrival in Washington late Saturday. The U.S. embassy here, said Torrijos will have a breakfast meeting Monday with presidential aid Hamilton Jordan, who heads the administration's campaign to win ratification of the treaty.
Torrijos' three-day stay in Israel is believed to be in part an attempt to "win over any missing Jewish votes in the U.S.," as one Panamanian insider put it.
Moreover, it will provide a balance for the Panamanian strongman's visit last year to one of Israel's most militant foes, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya.
Although Panamanian-Israeli relations have not been strained, Panama began two years ago to vote in the United Nations with the anti-Israeli bloc of so-called nonaligned nations to obtain their support for a new Panama Canal treaty. An exception to this was Panama's vote against the November 1975 U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Torrijos' swing through Western Europe, diplomats have believe, is principally designed to elicit statements of support from the shipping nations that are among the main users of the Panama Canal.
Opponents to the treaty in the United States have said the international shipping community opposes handing control of the waterway over to Panama for fear of higher tools, lower efficiently and greater political uncertainty.
"Torrijos is determined to take the wind out of those arguments," said one Western diplomat whose country that Panamanian will visit. He said the trip was put together in great haste with little advance notice.
The Panamanian leader is scheduled to visit the capitals of Spain France, Itlay, West Germany, Britain, Finland and Sweden.