JERUSALEM (Apr. 24)
Israel is waiting for the French government to reply formally to its charge that Mirage jets that France sold to Libya are being transferred to Egypt in direct violation of the terms of the sale. Foreign Minister Abba Eban conveyed the charge to the French Ambassador Francis Hure on Sunday along with what Israel claims is irrefutable evidence that the planes are being shifted to Egypt.
Paris has made no official response so far. But the French Foreign Ministry released a statement yesterday claiming that Israel had not supplied it with documentary evidence or other definitive material to back up its charge. Officials here have refrained from disputing the Quai d’Orsay’s statement on grounds that there was no point in engaging in polemics with the French.
They said that while there were no documents to corroborate the Mirage transfers there was ample evidence that the Libyan planes have been moved to Egypt and that French personnel in both those countries could easily confirm the Israeli data, provided there was good faith on the French side. Without good faith, no amount of evidence would convince the French, Israeli sources said.
Reliable Israeli sources said the French had in fact learned of the transfers from their own sources even before Israel knew of them. They likened the situation to that of Aug. 1970, when the United States insisted that it had no evidence to confirm Israeli charges that Egypt was moving SAM missiles into the Suez Canal zone in violation of the cease-fire–only to have to admit later on that the Israeli information was correct.
Israeli circles said they did not expect France to halt the delivery of Mirages to Libya because the economic interests at stake outweighed other considerations. A statement issued here today said that at his meeting with the French Ambassador Sunday, Eban “recalled the solemn obligations” preferred by former French Premier Jacques Chaban-Delmas in 1970 and by former French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann last Oct. when he met Eban in New York that any transfer would lead to a discontinuation of supplies and spare parts to Libya.