WASHINGTON (Sep. 24)
Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger said yesterday that the U.S. would “keep in mind” Egypt’s vociferous objections when “studying” Israel’s request for long-range surface-to-surface Pershing missiles. He also indicated for the first time that the arms list submitted by Israel last year which included the Pershings was part of a 10-year program which the U.S. had agreed only to “study.”
The Secretary also disclosed, on a CBS interview in New York where he is attending the current session of the United Nations General Assembly, that the U.S. has discussed a ceiling on weapons supplies to Israel and the Arab countries with the Soviet Union but the latter insisted on a prior agreement that Israel withdraw from all occupied Arab territories.
According to the transcript of the interview, Kissinger said, “We talked about it” to the Soviets “several years ago…and at that time the answer was that they would agree to this only in the context of the final settlement.” He added that “the calling” on arms to the Middle East would have to be applied to very many countries, not only the “so-called confrontation states”–Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
DEBATE BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION
Kissinger said it was his “impression” that the Soviet Union “will not endorse” the second Israeli-Egyptian interim agreement in Sinai “but also that they will do nothing to thwart the agreement.” He made that comment when asked whether the Russians would raise objections next month when the Security Council considers renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai which expires Oct. 24.
Kissinger said the issue of supplying Israel with Pershing missile batteries “has been blown out of any proportion.” He insisted that “there is absolutely nothing new” about the missile request which, he said, Israel submitted to the U.S. 13 months ago. “The United States has not agreed to supply it,” Kissinger said. “It has agreed, after the reassessment, to continue to study what was already going on. There has been no commitment.”
Washington has indicated that even if Israel’s request for Pershings was approved, deliveries could not begin for at least three years because the missile is not now in active production. Kissinger’s remarks yesterday appeared to be the first time he has spoken of the Pershings as part of a 10-year arms program for Israel that is under study.
His comments came as informed sources here indicated that Israel probably would not receive the Pershings for years and perhaps never President Ford was seen by those sources as never permitting a weapon designed to carry a nuclear warhead to be sent to the Middle East.