Army probing Patriot sale allegation

March 23, 1992|By New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- A team of U.S. Army inspectors began an investigation yesterday into allegations that Israel sold Patriot missile technology to China without required U.S. approval.

The 15-member team, mostly Army technical specialists, arrived in Israel this past weekend, and plans over the next few days to inspect sites where Israel keeps the two Patriot batteries sent here a year ago as a defense against Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the Persian Gulf war.

Once again, Israeli officials vociferously denied having handed the Chinese either Patriot missiles or their technology, as reported in several news articles from Washington. The reports said the Bush administration had also amassed evidence pointing to a broad pattern of Israeli transfers of U.S. weapons technology to South Africa, Chile, Ethiopia and other countries.

In all instances, Israeli officials insist that the charges are baseless.

"We have nothing to hide here," an official said. The visiting Americans, who are investigating only the allegations involving Patriot missiles, will be able to visit any place they wish, he said, and "they will have full cooperation to look for whatever they want."

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Defense Minister Moshe Arens reported on a visit he made to Washington last week and, according to officials who heard him, said his discussions with the Americans had done nothing to improve the situation. "We are still in the crisis," Education Minister Zevulun Hammer said later. "But we shall make efforts in order to close the gap between us."

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