Cautioning that continued fighting could lead to tragic consequences, the White House said on behalf of President Johnson:
"We call upon all parties to support the Security Council in bringing about an immediate cease-fire."
The U.S. declined to blame either side for starting the fighting.
Congressional leaders tended to go along with the White House in trying to avoid any direct U.S. intervention in the war.
Back of the U.S. maneuvering was the unspoken fear that a continuation of the fighting might somehow lead to an American- Soviet confrontation. The Soviet Union has sided with the Arab nations in the current crisis.
Chairman L. Mendel Rivers (D-S.C) of the House Armed Service Committee, an outspoken hawk in the Vietnam War, said:" We've got to keep cool, keep our heads in this situation."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield and Chairman J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said a morning bipartisan briefing of congressional leaders by top Johnson aides resulted in "very qualified" assurances that lawmakers would be consulted on future U.S. actions in the Mid-East.
They gave this assessment after hearing Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and CIA Director Richard M. Helms discuss the Israel-Arab fighting.
"We are deeply distressed to learn that large scale fighting has broken out in the Middle East, and eventuality we had sought to prevent, the White House statement said.
"Each side has accused the other of launching aggression. At this time, the facts are not clear. But we do know that tragic consequences will flow from this needless and destructive struggle if the fighting does not cease immediately."
Johnson received his first word of the fighting at 4:30 a.m. from Walt W. Rostow, his special assistant for national security affairs, one of dozens of officials who hurried to their offices after being alerted to the war.
Officials confirmed Cairo press reports that UAR President Gamal Abdel Nasser has arranged before the outbreak of fighting to dispatch a special envoy to meet with President Johnson on the Mid-east crisis.
They did not know what effect the hostilities would have on the meeting, which has been scheduled for Wednesday. But the officials emphasized that "in a situation like this, we are prepared to see or talk" to anyone who might help ease the crisis.