TEL AVIV (Mar. 7)
Several hundred employees of Israel Aircraft Industries demonstrated peacefully near the U.S. Embassy here today to protest America’s refusal to permit Israel to sell its Kfir Jet fighter planes to Ecuador. A petition requesting the Carter Administration to reverse its opposition to the sale was presented to the American Charge d’ Affaires who promised to transmit it to Washington.
The IAI employees said the American attitude could strike a death blow to Israel’s aeronautical industry causing unemployment for thousands of workers. The U.S. has refused to authorize sale of 24 Kfirs to Ecuador on grounds that it would be contrary to its policy of not introducing sophisticated weaponry to Latin American countries. The Kfir is powered by General Electric engines for which the U.S. must issue re-export licenses before they can be sold abroad.
Meanwhile, sources close to IAI indicated that several countries are inspecting the Kfir with a view to buying one or more squadrons. Negotiations with Austria and with several Latin American countries were said to be in advanced stages. The names of the Latin American countries were not disclosed. The deals are being held in abeyance, however, pending U.S. approval. A request for approval has already been submitted to the White House.