U.S. Remains Opposed to Israel’s Sale of Kfir Bombers to Ecuador

State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said today that the Administration’s negative position on the sale of Israel-made Kfir jet fighter-bombers to Ecuador remains “unchanged.” He said the sale “would run counter to U.S. policy against the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Latin America,” the reason cited when the U.S. vetoed the sale last year.

The State Department spokesman was responding to reporters’ questions following reports today that Israel had re-submitted its request for permission to sell the 24 Kfirs to Ecuador and that the State Department and the Pentagon were reconsidering the matter. According to the reports, the U.S. had suggested that Israel re-submit its request after appeals from Ecuadorian officials who urgently want the Israel-made combat plane.

Ecuador’s need for the Kfirs was reportedly conveyed to President Carter by Mrs. Rosalynn Carter on her return from a Latin American tour last month during which she visited Quito. Ecuadorian officials reportedly told her they needed the supersonic Kfirs because the Soviet Union has delivered advanced Sukhoi-20 fighters to Peru, Ecuador’s neighbor on the south, with which Ecuador has been involved in territorial disputes for generations.

A spokesperson for the First Lady said Mrs. Carter did not intercede with the President for the sale but was simply “a channel of communication” to him. The Kfir is the first fighter plane of Israel design and manufacture. But its sale to other countries requires U.S. approval because the plane is powered by an American-made engine.

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