27 NOVEMBER 1959, Page 5

Ben Bellah

IT is difficult for any nation to learn from its own mistakes: it is even harder for any nation to earn from those of its neighbours. All the same, it s a healthy sign that Le Monde has mentioned the names of Nehru and Nkrumah in its corn- lents on the Algerian insurgents' nomination of Mohammed Ben Bellah—a prisoner in French hands—as their chief delegate in the talks that they have offered to the French Government. President de Gaulle has shown no inclination to obey the Injunction, 'Hang Ben Bellah!' inscribed on many it Paris wall in jingoistic French chalk since the Algerian nationalist leader and his four colleagues Were kidnapped, three years ago, on their flight from Morocco to Tunis to take part in the talks between the Sultan and M. Bourguiba. Indeed, the "resident has accorded them the status of officer Prisoners of war, and special consideration, in the Island fortress in which they are held. He has good reason to respect Ben Bellah: the nation- alist leader fought gallantly for France in the last war, when he 'thought that France was fighting for freedom, and then became a sort of Algerian de Gaulle by escaping from a French prison to lead the fight for his own country's free- dom. if only some of the President's friends on this side of the Channel could explain to him that the sooner an occupying power negotiates with its Nehrus and Nkrumahs, to say nothing of an Archbishop Makarios, the more face is saved and the less blood is spilled, the more he might be inclined to talk peace to a fellow-soldier, and to risk the wrath of his own political Right.