WASHINGTON (May. 11)
The United States Government has discussed possible nuclear desalting aid to Egypt and provided Egyptian authorities with a complete copy of the joint American-Israeli engineering feasibility study of a large-scale combination power-desalting plant for Israel.
No firm commitments have been made by the United States in response to Egyptian indications of desire for long-term loans or technical assistance grants to finance desalting in Egypt, But U.S. sources said the matter was fluid and might be covered in the $100, 000, 000 proposed for Egypt for the new fiscal year apart from the $150, 000, 000 in “food for peace.”
Cairo is now studying the findings of the U.S. -Israel joint board as stated in the final report of the engineering feasibility and economic study performed under contract by Kaiser Engineers of Oakland, Calif., in association with Catalytic Construction Company of Philadelphia, Pa. The joint board, established by the two governments to oversee the study, included Aharon Wiener, director of “Tahal” (water planning for Israel); Dr. Haim Cats, the Israeli Electric Corp.; and Dr. Shimon Yiftah, of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
U.S. sources said Egypt was seriously studying the desalting problem and that it was easily understandable that Egyptian officials would avail themselves of the Israeli study. It was pointed out that it did not matter whether the United States gave the full Israeli study to Egypt because it is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office for only $2,00 a copy. The extent of United States cooperation with Egypt in nuclear desalting discussions was not disclosed although it is known that officials of the U.S. Department of Interior’s office of saline waters have been involved.
The American-Israeli joint board last March 7 received the final report on the feasibility study and recommended that it be accepted. At that time it was learned that the State Department carefully heeded the recommendations of U. S. policy makers, concerned about proliferation of nuclear weapons. They thought in terms of International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of Israeli installations as a condition for a nuclear desalting loan to Israel at liberal interest rates. The Government of Israel, however, has maintained that following completion of the study, Israel wanted time to consider all aspects of the matter without regard to the reported “conditioning” of aid. Therefore, the project, initiated in June, 1964, has now been placed in temporary suspension.
U.S. officials said it was too speculative and “premature” to comment on whether aid to Egypt would be conditioned on an Egyptian agreement to submit to the same non-proliferation and inspection requirements desired from Israel. Washington circles considered it ironic that Egypt was studying possible utilization of aspects of a feasibility study that Israeli scientific authorities helped draft.