Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the only Arab leader with the respect of most of the varied factions in the Arab world, died yesterday of a heart attack, according to Cairo Radio, thus leaving the Middle East situation more perilous than ever.
Nasser, who was 52, had ruled Egypt since 1952, when he overthrew the monarchy of King Farouk. He was so popular with his people that even when he offered to resign after his humiliating defeat by the Israelis in 1967, crowds poured into Cairo's streets shouting his name and he withdrew the resignation.
Even as Nasser Iay dying in a Cairo suburb, the cease-fire between Jordan and Arab guerrillas he had worked out at a Sunday summit conference of Arab leaders appeared near collapse. The more radical guerrilla factions broadcast criticism of the agreement, which had been worked out with moderate guerrilla Yasir Arafat. Without Nasser's prestige behind it, the peace is even more tenuous.
On WGBH-TV last night two Harvard professors politely disagreed on the meaning of Nasser's death for the chances of peace in the Middle East.
Roger K. Fisher, professor of Law, said "The future is uncertain, but it's up the people there to decide what happens now. It would be very unwise for the United States to try to decide who will succeed Nasser. But the chances for peace are worse because no one else will be strong-enough to negotiate one."
Nadav Safran, professor of Government who teaches Gov 16, "The Middle East Problem," said, "Nasser's death has opened up many uncertainties, but it ends one certainly-that Nasser would never make peace with Israel."