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Portugal to Allow the U.S. to Retain Its Air Base at Azores

The government of Portugal, which recently established diplomatic relations with Israel, has given the United States assurances that it will allow the U.S. Air Force to remain at its base in the Azores and use it to resupply its allies.

This information was received today from State Department sources after Vice-President Walter Mondale met with Prime Minister Mario Soares in Portugal earlier today. The assurances were said to have been given at the meeting. Afterwards, Soares said “The base (Lajes Air Force Base) is not being put into doubt at all by us.” The U.S. airlift to Israel during the Yom Kippur War used the facilities there as a refueling base. The Arab nations strongly assailed Portugal for that authorization.

“The government of Portugal has not told us that we could not use the base to help Israel again in that way if the need arises,” a State Department source told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. While the diplomatic language was cast with a negative rather than a positive approach, it was unmistakable that the Portuguese are not going to block such aid. Spain, which said it would open relations with Israel but has not done so yet, barred American planes from refueling on Spanish soil during the Yom Kippur War crisis.

The U.S.-Portuguese agreement on the Azores air base has expired but use of the field is continuing pending negotiations for another pact. Portugal is inclined first to settle its problems with the inhabitants of the Azores who are seeking a greater share of the funds given by the U.S. to the Lisbon government for the use of the area.

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