3 MARCH 1939, Page 1

Mediterranean Tension Reports in the German and Italian Press of

France's military preparations in Tunis read like a preliminary cam- paign which will usher in the crisis Signor Mussolini's demands on France are expected to provoke. The reports assert that troops are being despatched from France, that all leave for troops stationed in Tunis has been cancelled, that the municipality of Tunis has begun organising civilian defence. The French, on their side, announce that twelve units of the Mediterranean Fleet have been despatched on a visit to the ports of Tunisia. At the same time, it is believed, after the German-Italian talks which have taken place in Berlin, that Signor Mussolini has once again post- poned the presentation of his demands to France, and that when the moment has come they will be made through the usual diplomatic channels. If this belief is correct, it seems that Signor Mussolini is by no means anxious to provoke a Mediterranean crisis, unless the Axis is merely waiting for the new Spanish Government to take its final form. There appears to be no doubt that the new attitude adopted to General Franco by the British Government has, even if only temporarily, slightly disconcerted the two Axis Powers, and at the same time Germany is by no means so sure as she was that all Eastern Europe would remain quiescent if she involved herself in adventures in the West.