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U.S. Explains Sale of Rockets to Nasser; Willing to Sell Same to Israel

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The State Department said today that Israel never sought to purchase American rockets of types provided to the United Arab Republic but if Israel should now desire such rockets “the Department can see no reason why a normal export license should not be granted.”

The Department’s views were made known in a letter by Assistant Secretary of State Brooks Hays to Senator Kenneth B. Keating, New York Republican. The letter sought to explain why the United States gave export licenses to the Nasser regime for U.S. Viper and Javelin rockets but rejected Israeli applications to purchase Nike anti-aircraft missiles. Israel desired the anti-aircraft missiles for defense against Soviet-built jet bombers furnished by Russia to the UAR air force.

Mr. Hays said that “in accordance with its policy of avoiding measures which might stimulate an arms race in the Near East, the United States has refrained from supplying (military) missiles to any of the countries of that region.”

In the State Department’s view, said Mr. Hays, “the introduction of missile weaponry under present circumstances could only add to the volatility of the Near East situation and, given the enormous costs involved, would increase substantially the already heavy arms burdens of the Near Eastern states. A number of Near Eastern nations might then wish to acquire such advanced weaponry, and there would be no assurance that their acquisitions would be limited to defensive ground-to-air missiles.”

“At present no nation in the Near East possesses missile type weapons,” Mr, Hays stressed. “It would indeed be inconsistent with our desire to see peace reinforced and progress achieved toward settlement of difficult Near Eastern problems were this country to bear first responsibility for setting off a new and more dangerous form of arms competition in that area. It would also be unfortunate were this country by actions of this kind to open opportunities for Soviet moves inevitably aimed at increasing tensions in the area and advancing the Communist cause. This would be neither in Israel’s interest nor our own.”

Justifying the sale of Viper and Javelin rockets to Nasser, Mr. Hays said “they are of negligible military importance, and similar types are manufactured in several countries.” They were provided to Nasser “for meteorological research purposes.”

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