WASHINGTON (Feb. 28)
Secretary of State Dean Rusk may discuss American-Egyptian cooperation on Egypt’s nuclear desalination program on his forthcoming visit to Egypt, it was indicated today by State Department sources.
The Department, meanwhile, said it could neither confirm nor deny reports that Egypt has embarked on nuclear desalination and that the United States might assist. However, it was learned U.S. Department of Interior experts and other American nuclear development authorities went to Egypt over a year ago, accompanied by an observer from the International Atomic Energy Agency. They reviewed plans and advised the Egyptian Government on a dual purpose electricity and desalting plant powered by nuclear energy.
Egypt subsequently is believed to have had a British feasibility study made, and asked various countries to offer bids on building the plant.
However, while the Department declined official comment on Egypt an official spokesman said: “It has been generally understood that any U.S. participation in such an (Israeli) project would be accompanied by IAEA safeguards.” Officials also said they could not deny reports that America has decided to link any loan to Israel for the nuclear desalting project with agreement by Israel to desist from development of a nuclear weapons potentiality.
The United States will review “in detail” the recommendations of the study made in Israel on the feasibility of building a nuclear desalting plant there. But it was made clear that loans to implement the recommendations would depend upon Israeli nonproliferation commitments.
It is assumed that any aid to Egypt on nuclear development would also be linked to IAEA safeguards, although Department officials made plain that they stressed the need for an Israeli nonproliferation undertaking because Israel is regarded nearer to a military nuclear potentiality.
(The New York Times reported today from Cairo that the United States has under consideration a plan to help both the United Arab Republic and Israel build atomic reactors for desalting sea water as a means of heading off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “Under the plan, not yet approved in Washington, the United States would offer sizable financial assistance for reactors to both countries in return for their acceptance of full inspection of all their atomic activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.” the report said.)