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dated September 4, 1956: Nasser reiterates stand

President Nasser of Egypt said at a press conference in Cairo on September 2 that his talks with Mr. R.G. Menzies, Australian Prime Minister and leader of the five-nation Suez mission, were "not negotiations, but discussions only." Asked whether he intended to enter into an agreement guaranteeing the right of nations using the Suez Canal, President Nasser said: "I have already promised to negotiate any new agreement on the lines of the 1888 Convention guaranteeing freedom of navigation. This offer still stands." Declaring that he was not prepared to compromise on the question of operational control of the canal, he reasserted Egyptian sovereignty over the canal. He said he had been "reassured by the US President, Mr. Eisenhower's recent statement which acknowledged that the canal was Egyptian and that the only issue was freedom of navigation." In Washington, American officials appeared hopeful and optimistic about the chances of the Menzies mission opening the way towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute. There has also been some private grumbling among officials about the possibility of British and French military precautions increasing, rather than reducing, tension in the Middle East.

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