WASHINGTON -- The State Department says its investigators have found "no evidence that Israel had transferred a Patriot missile or Patriot missile technology" to China, and added that the matter was now closed.
Administration officials said yesterday that the investigation had not resolved all questions, but that, given the turmoil the case was causing in U.S.-Israeli relations, they saw no point in continuing the inquiry.
The officials said they accepted assurances from Israel that it would comply in the future with restrictions on the re-export of U.S.-designed weaponry, but they also said the State Department was partly to blame for disarray in enforcing arms-export laws.
Margaret D. Tutwiler, the State Department spokeswoman, in conciliatory remarks that fell short of the apology demanded by some Israeli officials, said, "The Israeli government has a clean bill of health on the Patriot issue." She thanked Israel's Defense Ministry for its "superb cooperation" during the probe.
With yesterday's lengthy briefing on the Patriot investigation and on a related and broader inquiry into reports of unauthorized arms transfers by Israel, the State Department sought to put to rest a controversy that erupted last month and added to the tensions between the Bush administration and Israel's government.
Administration officials said that their careful statements were designed to deflate these tensions.