WASHINTON (Feb. 24)
The United States will not permit Israel to sell 24 of its Kfir fighter planes to Ecuador even if the Soviet Union or France should move in to make the sale, according to Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance.
Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Aid today. Vance said in a discussion of U.S. policy to cut the sale of its weapons abroad that “an example of the restraint we were compelled to exercise” was blocking Israel’s sale worth $200 million to her hard-pressed economy. The planes are powered by General Electric motors and the U.S. therefore has a veto over their transfer outside of Israel.
“Our policy is not to introduce advanced weapons in Latin America.” Vance said, and it is “because of that we did not go along with Israel’s suggestion” to sell the planes. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.Vt.) asked Vance why pressure was put on Israel when it was “obvious” that France or the Soviet Union “will move into that area.” Vance replied, “That is the risk we have to take.”
Israel has asked the U.S. to reconsider its decision. It is understood that Ecuador has given Israel until March 15 to fill the contract. Since Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin will be in Washington the week before that date, some sources here think the U.S. might allow the sale as a gesture of support to him in his coming struggle to retain the Premiership.