U.S. Denies ‘action’ Taken on Israeli Request for Co-production of F-16

The State Department said today that “no final action has been taken” on Israel’s request to enter into co-production of the American F-16 fighter plane and that it did not know when it would be taken. The statement was given in response to a Washington Post report today quoting State Department and Pentagon officials as saying the Carter Administration has made a “decision” to reject the Israeli request.

When Department spokesman John Trattner was asked whether in view of his statement the Post’s report was inaccurate, he said first that his statement “would reflect that,” but later he said he was “not giving judgment on the story.” When he refused to define “action” in distinction to the Post’s word “decision,” angry reporters declared the matter “requires a clear answer” and demanded that the Department “stop playing this nonsense.” Some reporters took the view that the U.S. has made its “decision” but has not yet notified Israel which would be “action.”

Trattner opened his comment by noting that co-production of the F-16 was “one of several items” requested by Israel at an “early date” and has been “under consideration for a long time.” He said it is still within “current discussions with the Israelis,” adding, “We are committed in principle” to provide the F-16 to Israel as a finished product. The question is how many,” he said. “When” they will be shipped to Israel “depends on the decision the U.S. will ultimately take.”

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