Israel says it will sell arms to any country it chooses

March 15, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, responding to growing criticism of his nation's arms exports, said yesterday that Israel would continue to sell weapons to any country it chooses, including China, because it needs the funds to keep its defense industry operating.

Interviewed on CNN's "Newsmaker Saturday" program, Mr. Arens denied that Israel had ever sold U.S.-developed arms without Washington's permission.

But his defense of an aggressive export policy underlines concerns that Israel has undercut U.S. efforts to check the spread of sophisticated military equipment, especially to nations, such as China, that are denied access to U.S. arms.

U.S. officials, citing intelligence reports, say there is overwhelming evidence that Israel resold some U.S. weapons and used U.S.-supplied technology in developing some of the Israeli-manufactured weapons it has sold overseas.

The controversy underscores concerns that Israel and the United States sometimes pursue sharply divergent goals on defense matters, despite Washington's longtime commitment to Israel's security and its annual grant of more than $2 billion in military aid.

The dispute also adds friction to U.S.-Israel relations already strained by Washington's opposition to Israel's policy of building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, an administration official confirmed that Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Clarke, whose office supervises anti-proliferation efforts, will soon be "rotated" to another job despite his desire to remain in his post until the latest controversy dies down.

Responding to a report in Friday's Wall Street Journal, the official said that there was no chance that Mr. Clarke would be permitted to retain his post as chief of the State Department's Politico-Military Bureau.

The Journal said the State Department inspector-general's office had prepared an audit criticizing the Office of Defense Trade Controls for its failure to crack down on Israeli abuses. The office is under Mr. Clarke's supervision.

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