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Israel Concerned About Franco-egyptian Arms Industry Deal

Officials here expressed serious concern today over Egypt’s apparent plans to establish its own modern arms industry with technical assistance from France and financing from the Arab oil states and to increase its present arsenal with the purchase of sophisticated weaponry and equipment from the West, chiefly France and Britain.

These reports were given added weight by the joint communique issued in Cairo yesterday at the end of French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s five-day official visit as the guest of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. The communique stated that France would help Egypt set up an arms industry that by 1980 would be capable of manufacturing or assembling the most advanced weaponry. (See separate story from Paris.)

Officials recalled that Sadat has stated recently that he has by no means abandoned the war option despite the second interim agreement concluded with Israel last September. They said that French support would help him maintain that option and could hardly be seen as a contribution to peace in that region.

According to Western sources, Egypt plans to invest $8 billion in an armaments industry, most of it to come from the Arab oil states. In the interim, it plans to buy the present generation of weapons from the West to supplement its Soviet-made arms.

THREE-PRONGED EXPANSION PLAN

Israeli experts say Egypt plans to expand its war arsenal in three phases. In the short-range it will continue to look to the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Communist bloc for spare parts and servicing of its existing equipment, nearly all of which is of Soviet or Eastern European origin. At the same time, Egypt will buy electronic equipment and other items from the West which it can integrate with its Soviet arms.

Egypt’s intermediate range plans call for the purchase of such items as Mirage-3 and Mirage F-1 jets from France and Sea-King and Gazelle helicopters and naval equipment from Britain. Cairo’s long-range plans, based on Arab oil money and Western know-how and technology, call for the construction of an indigenous arms industry to produce the weapons of the 1980s, the Israeli experts said. French technicians reportedly will be sent to Egypt shortly to prepare the groundwork for the new arms industry.

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