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Swiss Firm Acting As Intermediary in Israel-ussr Cement Deal

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The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned today that a Swiss firm Is acting as Intermediary in a deal by which Israel would purchase large quantities of cement from the Soviet Union. The JTA obtained the Information from the manager of Avirom, an Israeli com- pany which wants to import the cement. The manager said Avirom authorized the Swiss firm which he would not name, to look into the possibilities in Russia.

He said, however, that so far-non substantive agreement on the deal has been reached. He claimed that reports carried by two Israeli newspapers yesterday that Israel was buying 100,000 tons of Russian cement and that the first consignment of 20,000 tons was due here next month in an American ship sailing from a Soviet port were “exaggerated.”

According to the manager, the idea of the purchase originated with the Swiss company which Avirom represents in Israel. He said that Avirom meanwhile applied for an import license as a means of testing the Israeli government’s attitude toward the deal. The license has not been granted yet. According to reliable sources, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has indicated no reason why the license should not be granted. The Avirom manager told the JTA that both the Commerce and Foreign Ministries have made it clear to his firm that they have no objections.

But he said there was no truth to reports yesterday in Maariv and Yediot Achronot that the first consignment was due here in Aug. and that the quantities and prices mentioned in the stories were erroneous. The manager added that he was doubtful-that anything would come of the deal. He said there was a severe worldwide shortage of cement and that many countries including the Arabs, were willing to pay anything for it.

Some observers here discounted the Avirom manager’s apparent efforts to play down the story. They noted that in deals of this sort, secrecy is often essential. Should the deal go through, it would be the first commercial transaction between Israel and the Soviet Union since the latter severed diplomatic relations during the 1967 Six-Day War.

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