US tries to piece together a peace-keeping force for the Sinai
With the crucial AWACS vote safely behind him, President Reagan must turn to another pressing Middle East issue: putting together a new peace force to patrol Sinai and prop up the latest stage of Camp David.
Four European Community nations have ''more or less agreed'' in principle to contribute troops to a peace-keeping force monitoring Israel's April 1982 pullout from Sinai.
Speaking in Luxembourg recently, after a meeting of the 10-nation Community, French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson said France, Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands were prepared to join the force provided for under the 1978 Camp David accords.
Although other EC ministers declined to confirm the decision, a formal declaration is expected as soon as details of the multinational force have been ironed out.
So far, only the United States, Colombia, Uruguay, and Fiji have indicated a firm commitment to join the 2,500-man force.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has said his country would participate if Canada and Britain were to join. Canadian External Affairs Minister Mark MacGuigan said recently that the possibility of Canadian involvement had been discussed with ''a number of countries'' but that there had been no formal invitation.
Greece has expressed the strongest opposition among the six remaining EC members to sending troops to Sinai. The new Socialist government formally objected, saying EC participation would alienate Arab nations opposed to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Although Italy has said it would join the force if all EC nations endorse European participation, it has come under pressure to change its mind. There have been reports, for instance, of Iraq offering a contract to increase daily oil shipments to Italy from 130,000 barrels per day to 160,000 barrels if, in the words of Iraqi Foreign Minister Saadun Hammadi,the two nations found a ''political understanding.''
Other Arab nations such as Syria and Libya have been less subtle in warning the EC against committing troops to patrol the Sinai. They say any European action would be tantamount to recognition of the Camp David accords and thus adversly affect the EC role in the Mideast peace process.
The Sinai peace-keeping force was originally expected to be organized by the United Nations under the Camp David peace agreements signed by Israel, Egypt, and the United States in 1978. But the US took over this task - with Israeli and Egyptian approval - when it became clear the Soviet Union would veto UN sponsorship.
Although Congress has not yet approved US military participation, the Army has announced that 800 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division as well as some 350 logisitics specialists and 50 civilians will ''begin the necessary planning, preparation, and training for their possible peace-keeping mission'' patrolling the Sinai.