WASHINGTON (Jun. 16)
The United States-Egyptian agreement to provide Egypt with nuclear technology and fuel for peaceful purposes, and a similar agreement with Israel, expected to be announced by President Nixon during his stay in Israel, which began today, evoked reactions at the capitol ranging from hesitancy to outright opposition.
Qualified sources indicated the agreement with Egypt announced in Cairo Friday by President Nixon before his departure for Saudi Arabia and Damascus on his Mideast tour, will undergo sharp scrutiny and may ultimately fall of approval. But the State Department said it had consulted with key Congressional figures and found no objections from them.
Rep. Melvin Price (D. III.) chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, said the agreement would be examined thoroughly. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee also are required to approve such agreements.
Three Senators who are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — George McGovern (D.S.D.), Charles Percy (R., III) and Clifford Case, (R., N.J.) expressed negative reactions. McGovern said he opposed the agreement in principle and said President Nixon had no right to commit the United states to such a project without prior Congressional approval. Sen. Percy said that “while I understand that Israel will be provided the same technology and equipment, I am deeply concerned about the introduction of nuclear capabilities in the region.”
Percy said that Egypt, twice in seven years “has attacked the State of Israel and the nations of the area have waged four wars in the past 25 years.” Sen. Case was angered by the abruptness with which he was informed by the State Department about the agreement and indicated it could represent a very major change in U.S. policy. An aide said that if the nuclear agreement. was part of the disengagement process and has not been communicated to the Foreign Relations Committee, “somebody is in real hot soup” because the Case Act requires all information on such agreements.
Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R., N.Y.) said the agreement “must be received with grave reservations,” adding it marked “a very basic policy decision which could involve the survival of Israel and the security of the whole Middle East”
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.), a member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy said it was “a terrible shock that the government would bring in nuclear power plants where terrorists operate with impunity.” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) said the announcement raised a number of questions that needed to be thoroughly explored by Congress “before any final agreement is concluded.” Sen. John Pastore, (D., R.J.) vice-chairman of the Joint Committee, said Egypt should ratify the 1967 global treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons before the proposed technical aid is approved.
Critics of the proposal questioned Egypt’s trustworthiness, noting that the rapprochement between the U.S. and Egypt is virtually brand new. When the State Department was asked what the result would be if the Moslem Brotherhood overthrew the government of Egyptian President Sadat, a high departmental source said he was not prepared to make a Judgment. But he insisted that the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had safeguards which would be incorporated in the Egyptian agreement.
A top State Department official acknowledged that Sadat had asked for a nuclear plant in January, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was negotiating the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement accord. However, when the official was asked directly if the nuclear technology plan was a part of the disengagement process, he hedged his reply. He said Egyptian specialists were in Washington in late April on the project. At that time, the Department reported. Israeli experts were here too, presumably for the same reasons. Officials said the two teams knew of each other’s presence here.
Department officials said they would not be “surprised” if President Nixon and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin announced an agreement similar to that with Egypt. However, the officials said they would be surprised if Saudi Arabia and Syria obtained such accords. Under the Cairo agreement, Egypt and the U.S. will negotiate arrangements under which the U.S. will authorize American producers to supply Egypt with a 600 megawatt plant and two reactors. The officials said it will take up to eight years before the nuclear power plants become operative. Department officials said accords exist with 29 countries, including Israel, on research reactors, which do not have capability for destructive uses.