CAIRO — Here is the text of a statement issued Friday by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in reaction to the forcing down by U.S. warplanes of an EgyptAir plane carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro. The statement, in Arabic, was translated by the Associated Press:
The government of the Arab Republic of Egypt was regrettably taken by surprise when American planes intercepted an EgyptAir plane that was carrying hijackers of the Italian ship along with two PLO officials who had participated in negotiations with hijackers. The interception of the plane occurred when it was on its way back to Cairo after the Tunisian authorities denied it access and announced that the airport was closed to it, despite Tunisia's earlier approval for the plane to land at Tunis Airport--approval that had taken several hours to obtain.
Egypt, which always has condemned terror and violence in all forms by air or on land or by sea and which also denounced the hijacking of the Italian ship in line with its well-known and declared principles, negotiated with the hijackers of the ship on humanitarian grounds to save the lives of more than 400 people who did not include a single Egyptian and who were in grave and certain danger. It did so at the insistence of some countries that had nationals on board the ship. These countries signed a document asking Egypt to negotiate without their making any specific demands regarding the fate of the hijackers in the event of their surrender.