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Congress Won’t Oppose Reactor for Egypt

Congressional skepticism continued over President Nixon’s plans to provide atomic power producing capability to Egypt despite the announcement by Nixon and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem yesterday of a similar U.S. Israeli nuclear agreement. It appeared, however, that Congress will approve the agreements or at least not oppose them, its misgivings notwithstanding.

Supporters of Israel such as Charles Percy (D, III.) and George S. McGovern (D.S.D.), who expressed opposition to the Egyptian agreement last week reiterated their opposition after the Jerusalem announcement. Senate Finance Committee chairman Russell Long (D.La.) said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” that “at the moment I would have to be opposed” to the Egyptian agreement but said he might change his mind once he received more details. Other Congressmen also appeared to be waiting for additional details from the Administration. Rep. Melvin Price (D. III), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, indicated that hearings on the agreement would not start before Sept.

Meanwhile, a committee source stressed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Israel is far ahead of Egypt in nuclear potential and already has the apparatus that approached capability to produce a nuclear weapon. The source said that Egypt now has a Soviet reactor of about two megawatts, that is “too small to do anything of significance.” Nixon has agreed to provide Egypt with a 600-megawatt reactor. Israel, the source said, has two research reactors. One is an American reactor that cannot make plutonium and uses highly enriched uranium, according to the source. “The other is one the Israelis made themselves,” the source said. “It uses natural uranium and heavy water and is a good producer of plutonium that can be used to make an atomic bomb.”

(Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said today. “Our government’s decision to supply Egypt with atomic power fills us with deep distress and dismay.” He said that though the purpose is peaceful and safeguards are intended, “When atomic technology and material are Introduced into an explosive military situation, when they are given to a people that continues to threaten war against Israel if its demands are not met, what appears to be an economic step with peaceful motivations takes on extremely military overtones.”)

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