The first contingent of U.S. Army troops assigned to the multinational peace-keeping force arrived in the Sinai peninsula today in preparation of the scheduled April 25 turnover of the Sinai to Egypt by Israel.
The 600 troops of the 82d Airborne Division from Ft. Bragg, N.C., arrived at the landing strip at Ophira, in southeastern Sinai near the new U.S.-built headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers, which will patrol the easternmost sector of the Sinai. The troops were flown to Ophira in Boeing 747 jets charted from Israel's El Al airlines, and were reviewed on the tarmac by the force commander, Gen. Frederik Bull-Hansen, of Norway.
Although the troops are technically from the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force, their commander, Lt. Col. William Garrison, said their duties will be restricted to patroling and observing the Sinai. "We do not anticipate any change in our mission. We are assigned to the multinational force, and we will follow the orders of the multinational force," Garrison said.
A total of 3,000 troops from 10 contributing nations are expected to be deployed in the Sinai before Israel withdraws from the last third of the peninsula on April 25. Another contingent of U.S. Army troops will be stationed at the former Israeli airbase at Eitam, near the Mediterranean coast.
[Egypt and Israel failed to solve their dispute over the location of their future border but expressed confidence Wednesday that they would find a solution before Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai April 25, the Associated Press reported from Tel Aviv.]
[At a joint news conference winding up Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali's two-day visit to Israel, Ali and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said they expected to meet later this month in Cairo for more negotiations on the border issue.]
[The two ministers said they had virtually settled the problem of the northern sector of the new border, which will run through the Arab town of Rafah. Nevertheless, 15 other parts of the border are still in dispute, primarily the southern Red Sea end.]