Schlesinger: U.s., to Look with Some Sympathy on Israel’s Request for Pershing Missiles

Defense Secretary James R, Schlesinger said today that the U.S., government would look “with some sympathy” on Israel’s request for long-range Pershing missiles. He said that was Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s meaning when he included in the 16-point U.S.-Israeli memorandum that became part of the recent Israeli-Egyptian Sinai-accord, the pledge of a “positive response” to Israel’s request for Pershings.

Schlesinger stated that a joint U, S,-Israel study would be made regarding the Pershings “but it is unlikely, given all of the factors involved, a near term decision to provide Pershings to Israel is likely to be forthcoming.” He said “I have noticed that Prime Minister (Yitzhak) Rabin has indicated the Pershing ground-to-ground missile was not an indispensable element of Israel’s defense posture,” adding that “I think that will of course be included by both sides in any study.”

The Defense Secretary made his remarks at a press conference when he was asked whether the supply to Israel of the Pershings which have a 400-mile range and are capable of delivering nuclear warheads was “now a dead issue.” He said the U.S., examination of the matter would include “other elements of the problem” such as “the inventory situation and the like consistent with the supply of Pershings to Israel.”

Schlesinger reiterated that the U.S. would not send Pershings to Israel from its stocks. Asked about a report that the U.S. was withdrawing 36 Pershings from its inventory in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which would suggest their availability for Israel, Schlesinger said he regarded the Pershings as “an important part of the alliance defense posture in Europe.”

MUM ON EGYPT’S ARMS REQUEST

He declined to discuss a reported request by Egypt for American weapons, saying he would have nothing to say “partly out of delicacy and partly out of dearth of information” on the subject. He referred reporters to the State Department on that matter.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat will visit Washington at the end of this month. He has publicly opposed the supply of Pershings to Israel, saying that if Israel received large stocks of American weapons, Egypt would increase its own arsenal, Circles here believe Sadat was preparing the way to get more weapons from the U.S. than he had previously indicated or else was seeking to out the U.S. supply of military hardware to Israel in a bargaining process.

The Pentagon has confirmed, meanwhile, that it has increased its orders for Lance missiles by slightly more than $6 million to sell them to Israel. That sum is understood to be the cost of about 100 Lance missiles.

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