14 FEBRUARY 1941, Page 1

NEWS OF THE WEEK A BOUT the meeting between General Franco

and Signor Mussolini on Wednesday nothing is known as these words are written except that it took place. It is not apparent why General Franco or anyone else should desire to meet the dis- comfited Duce at the present moment, but the general impression is that it was the Duce who, presumably with German approval, desired to meet General Franco. The communiqué issued after the meeting, declaring complete identity of view, means precisely nothing, and the purpose of the all-day conversations can only be surmised.. The last thing the two negotiators are likely to have discussed is a peace-move by Italy. If that were coming—and there is no sign that it is— it would not have come that way. There may have been an attempt to secure active co-operation in the form of the passage of German troops (hardly Italian) through Spain to Gibraltar. but it is hard to suppose that what was refused to Hitler a few months ago when the Axis star was shining much more brightly than it is today would be conceded to a defeated Mussolini now. Much more probable is the thesis that what Mussolini wants is to find a way, with Spanish and Fiench connivance, of getting his remaining troops out of Tripoli without having them disarmed and interned. That would explain the further meeting between General Franco and Marshal Petain. The Vichy administration may steadily strengthen its bargaining position if it plays its cards well.