LONDON (Dec. 22)
Prime Minister Harold Wilson today called for an international agreement to restrict arms shipments to Israel and the Arab states and for the creation of a “nuclear free zone” in the Near East.
Mr. Wilson spoke in the House of Commons where he was asked whether the government would sell Israel the British Buccaneer aircraft. He said that “as far as arms are concerned, the solution must lie in getting international agreement to stop the competitive shipment of arms to any Near Eastern country, and to work as quickly as possible to secure a non-nuclear zone in that area to prevent what is already a dangerous arms situation becoming worse by becoming nuclear.”
His comment followed a suggestion by Frederick A. Burden, Conservative, that Britain sell the Buccaneer jets to Israel. “Israel is a small and isolated country; certainly her intentions are not aggressive,” Mr. Burden said. He asked: “Why should it not be in the interests of people in general to insure that such countries should have arms with which to protect themselves?”
Mr. Wilson replied that “the Government has not been asked to supply Israel with Buccaneers. If this question, so far hypothetical, became a reality, it would raise some very difficult issues.” He stressed that the Government wanted to avoid an arms race in the Near East.
“I am sure,” he told Mr. Burden, “the whole House will be well aware of our desire to avoid an arms race in the Middle East. While we feel that the arms balance in the Middle East has been severely affected by shipments made by other countries, we certainly do not wish to stimulate a fresh round of shipments or anything of this kind.”
The Prime Minister assured the House of the sentiment of the British Government “to ensure that everything is done to preserve the independence of Israel and to do everything in our power, which is not easy, to damp down the causes of tension in that area.”