BONN (Feb. 11)
Dr. Eugen Gerstenmair, president of the Bundestag, lower house of West Germany’s Parliament, confirmed today a report that Chancellor Ludwig Erhard had ordered a temporary halt last night in arms shipments to Israel.
The decision was understood to have been made Tuesday and communicated to the Egyptian Government in response to a pledge by the Nasser Government that it would not extend diplomatic recognition to Communist East Germany. However, the Egyptian invitation to the East German chief of state, Walter Ulbricht to visit Cairo, set for February 26, has not been withdrawn.
It was reported that a final decision on West Germany’s military aid program to Israel would depend on the treatment extended by the Nasser regime to Ulbricht, which West German officials assume will be one without the full honors usually accorded to a chief of state.
While the West German Government maintained official silence on the suspension, Dr. Gerstenmair, in confirming the action, said “I am glad that the Government has followed our proposal at last. I hope that this decision will help to ease tension in the Middle East.” He had recommended earlier this month a general ban on West German arms deliveries to any international trouble spot.
There was one report that Bonn even agreed to pull back arms already en route to Israel. This was disputed by informed sources who said that shipments now under way would be completed.
West German commitments to aid Israel with military assistance began in 1960 when Dr. Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor. Informed sources insisted that the Erhard Government remains determined to insure that Israel’s security needs would be met. Supporters of military aid to Israel yielded to the Government’s decision after they were assured that arms for Israel’s defense against any Arab attack would be made available to Israel as needed, these sources said.
There were unconfirmed reports that West Germany might offer Israel money to replace the canceled arms deliveries.