CHAMBERLAIN MAY INFLUENCE DUCE
M. Daladier, French Prime )l mister, has visited Corsica and Tunisia With some pomp.
But diplomatic circles in Paris point out that the visit is not a show of force directed against the Italian claims for " Tunis, Corsica, Nice, Savoy." M. Daladier does not think the Italian agitation is mere rhetoric or bluff.
He is relying on the real defences of Tunis. These are : the natives' content with the French Administration, and the Tunisian Maginot Line.
On the other hand, the natives are not madly enthusiastic for the French Empire, and Italy is believed to be in a strong position in the Mediterranean in the event of hostilities.
Contrary to other reports, our Correspondent in Paris states that the French are counting on Mr Chamberlain's mediation in Rome to lessen the tension between France and Italy.
According to well-informed circles in Paris, the Italians are anxious to release the remaining Italian troops in Spain if a change in the French attitude enables them to do so.
From Our Own. Correspondent
Arrangements for M. Daladier's visit to Corsica and Tunisia give the impression that the French Government is anxious to assert France's " inflexible will " to resist Italian claims while avoiding anything which could provoke Italy to further action. For in France. Sig. Mussolini's official silence on Italian claims, so far, is hailed with a sigh of relief.
Nothing could be more disturb fig to French policy than press rumours supposing mat M. Daladier's trip will be the excuse for a show of force to frighten the Italians, or to stake a priority of claims for France in the Mediterranean.
The French Go'vernnient seems to be far from believing that the Italian agitation is mere rhetoric or bluff.
The fact is that the Italians are believed to be at present stronger in the air than the French, their sea power concentrated in the Mediterranean is a formidable weapon, and they have strategic advantages with regard to Africa.
NOT FORCE The French are not counting on a show of force to frighten the Italians so much as on the mediation of Mr Chamberlain and Lord Halifax.
'It is believed in Paris that Italy is anxious not to imperil the Anglo-Italian understanding by going too far at present, and the Right wing believes that the biggest of all stumbling blocks to understanding between France and Italy will have been removed once France recognises General Franco's belligerent rights and appoints a representative at Burgos.
WANTS TO EVACUATE THEM
There is an impression here that Italy is anxious to re/eaae the remaining Italian troop* in Spain, and that a change in the French attitude might enable her to do so.
It is even suggested that one of the Main ahem of the Tunisian agitation is to achieve this. On the other hand it is the Tunisian agitation which has delayed the inevitable question of when France is to enter into diplomatic relations with Burgos. This is quite apart from the serious division which might be presumed to occur amongst the Radical Socialists (M. Daladier's own party) were the recognition of General Franco insisted on by the Right wing elements In the Chambre who now hold the balance of M. Daladier's majority.
M. Daladier himself is unquestionably opposed to Nationalist Spain in sympathy, but he has repeatedly shown his readiness to put the interests of France before old ideological ties, and France cannot shelve the question for ever.
It is realised both by Left and Right that an actively hostile Spain is a serious danger for France, and each day the Right solution of the problem (making friends with General Franco) seems more practicable than the Left solution (helping Barcelona).
ONLY A GESTURE
M. Daladier's visit to Corsica is only a short and symbolic gesture, as the French patriotism of the Corsican islanders is unquestioned. Italian propaganda in Corsica is not taken too seriously in Paris.
In Tunisia the pro-French demonetrations cannot be taken so seriously.
Apart from the French and naturalised French inhabitants the mass of the population feels neither the disgust at French rule which the Italians are liable to hope for, nor the enthusiasm for France which the French are inclined to see.
Native demonstrations against Italian claims seem to have been confined to town-workers, who are more influenced by the socialist. and communist hostility to Fascism than deep feelings of imperial attachment.
THE REAL DEFENCES Serious opinion recognises that France's best defence in Tunisia is the prosperity which French trade and organisation has brought, the mildness typical of French administration, and the new Maginot line which stretches out for hundreds of miles facing the frontiers of Libya,