The Egyptian government yesterday ordered the Soviet Union and four other Eastern European nations to close their consulates and cultural centers outside Cairo, because it said those nations have tried to undermine Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's recent peace overtures to Isreal.
The order closes the consulates and cultural centers of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland as well as those of the Soviet Union.
It does not apply to any centers those nations maintain within the Egyptian capital.
The action stopped short of severing diplomatic relations with the five nation.
Egyptian officials said yesterday they did not yet know if the government would set a formal deadline for closing the centers.
Harvard experts on the Middle East situation disagreed last night over the significance of the move.
Prime Minister Mamhoud Salem, who announced the decision to the Egyptian parliament, said the countries had tried to stir up opposition to Sadat's peace initiatives by helping to arrange last weekend's summit of Arab states who have taken a firm line against recognition of Israel.
"At a time when Egypt was mobilizing all its efforts to bring peace in the Middle East, the Soviet Union headed a group whose interest was the continuation of no war and no peace," Salem said.
The governments of the five nations involved had not yet commented on the Egyptian decision last night.
Stanley H. Hoffmann, professor of Government, said last night the move is not likely to have any lasting repercussions.
"It's all symbolic politics," Hoffmann said, adding that he believes Egypt's recent decision to break off diplomatic relations with Syria and four other nations who attended the Tripoli conference is "potentially a more serious matter."
He added that Sadat probably ordered the move as a gesture to show his determination to carry through with his peace initiative despite Arab opposition."
Having hit out at his Arab critics, he probably felt compelled to hit out at the Russians as well," he said.
Hoffmann added that although the Soviet government may respond by expelling Egyptian cultural attaches from its cities, he does not believe it will sever relations with Cairo.
Nadav Safran, professor of Government, sid it is still too early to determine how the Soviets will react to the expulsion.
"It's a slap at the Soviets. If the Soviets take it and don't react, then it will mean nothing," he said. "But conversely, [Sadat] could provoke the Soviets to respond in a sharp way," Safran added