LONDON (Dec. 13)
Iranian oil, pumped through Israel’s Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, is finding its way to Eastern European countries, among them East Germany, the most rabidly anti-Israel member of the Communist bloc, it was reported here today. The Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline bypasses the closed Suez Canal, saving a three-week, 12,000 mile voyage from Mideastern oil fields to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope. (The use of the new Israeli pipeline to hasten the flow of oil to Eastern Europe has been known in Israel for several weeks but its publication has been suppressed by rigid censorship, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Jerusalem correspondent reported today. The JTA’s correspondent said he spoke twice to Dov Ben Drior, director of the Trans-Asiatic Co. which controls traffic on the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, but got no answers to his questions. He said that Zebi Dinstein, Deputy Minister of Finance who is in overall charge of oil affairs, refused to see him.) The Sunday Times, which broke the story here today said the Soviet Union is fully aware of the movement of Communist bloc oil through the Israeli pipeline and has no objections.
Noting that the Russian supply network is inadequate to meet the urgent oil requirements of its European satellites, the Times stated: “Over the past two years Russia has given the go-ahead to Eastern bloc countries to import oil from any alternative sources.” The Times said the principal destination of tankers loading oil at Ashkelon and Haifa are two refineries in Italy; one at Rijeka, Yugoslavia; and one at Constanza, Rumania. At least one cargo of oil shipped through Israel has reached East Germany, the Times said. The paper said Iran was happy with the arrangement because it establishes its nationally-owned Iranian Oil Co. as a major distributor in its own right. The bulk of the oil produced by Iran has been distributed heretofore by the Western firms that drill it. Italy too is benefitting, the Times said. Its major oil sources have been the fields in Libya and the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline) but supplies to the West from those sources have been severely cut back owing to a price war. The Times believes that if the Suez Canal was to re-open the Israeli pipeline would be bankrupt overnight. “The conclusion must be that Israel–and increasingly the giants of the oil world–do not expect the Canal to reopen,” the Times said.