U.S. seeking European aid for Israel WAR IN THE GULF

February 02, 1991|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The United States, strapped for foreign-aid money, is turning to European allies to help Israel defray what it claims are billions of dollars in added costs as a result of the Persian Gulf war, a group of Jewish leaders was told this week in a meeting with Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

Israel, which gets $3 billion a year in aid from the United States, has been left out of most of the financial compensation to states economically damaged by the gulf crisis, since it is neither part of the anti-Iraq military coalition nor one of the countries hurt by the cutoff of trade to Iraq.

Although Israel has yet to make a formal request to the United States for more aid, officials there said recently that the Jewish state would need $13 billion in new assistance over the next five years: $3 billion to compensate for costs incurred as a result of the gulf war and $10 billion to help settle the huge influx of Soviet Jews.

The United States has said it would give "full consideration" to Israel's needs.

Such is the added financial burden on the United States from the war, however, that it is forced to seek other donors.

Shoshana S. Cardin of Baltimore, chairwoman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said yesterday that a group of Jewish leaders who met with Mr. Baker Thursday was told that the United States would seek "funding sources" in the European Community and elsewhere to assist Israel.

However, no specific countries or figures were mentioned, she said.

A State Department official did not dispute Mrs. Cardin's account. "Baker is aware of Israel's financial needs, and we're obviously going to think of creative ways to fill those needs," the official said, while stressing that "money was not a big part of the conversation."

Germany, which sent Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to Israel last week, has provided Israel so far with $160 million, far short of what Israel says it needs.

Israel has drawn widespread admiration and closer American ties by avoiding immediate response to Iraq's Scud missile attacks.

But the United States maintained its criticism of Israel's crackdown in the occupied territories yesterday. The State Department's annual human rights report included criticism of what it called excessive security measures and restraints on non-violent political activity.

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