WASHINGTON (Jul. 4)
Israel halted the shipment of two patrol boats to the Somoza government of Nicaragua following discussions with the United States, according to the State Department. In an intensive discussion of the half in Israel’s shipment of war supplies to Nicaragua, the Department said Monday that Israel ended “arms contracts” with that country in 1978 and that in the case of the patrol boats the “response” of Israeli authorities “was swift and helpful.” The U.S. had asked that no arms be transmitted to either the Somoza forces or the Sandinist rebels.
Responding to questions from reporters, State Department spokesman Tom Reston said that “the Israeli arms shipment to Nicaragua came up” Monday because of “reports that a Liberian freighter, ‘Lagos Star,’ was carrying two Israel made Devorah class 105-foot patrol boats to Nicaragua. The government of Israel ordered the patrol boats not to proceed to Nicaragua and return the patrol boats to Israel.”
Reston said “the government of Israel has assured the United States that it ended arms contracts with Nicaragua in mid-1978.” He added: “In this particular case, the patrol boats were contracted for some three years ago, well before the recent decision of many nations to halt arms flows to either side in the Nicaraguan dispute.”
He explained that “when senior Israeli government officials became aware of this particular shipment they ordered it turned back.” Reston was unable to provide elements about the case and said he did not know where the Liberian ship is at present. Asked if Israel was unaware of the shipment to Nicaragua until the U.S. informed the Israelis about it, Reston replied that he did not know how the Israelis were informed. He also could not say when the incident of the patrol boats took place or the technicalities “legally” involved in Israel’s cancellation of contracts with Nicaragua.
“We did not pressure Israel on this matter,” Reston said. “We made our position plain and that is all I have to say about it.”He noted at another point that U.S. policy is not to supply arms to either side. He said that there have been “other allegations of Israeli supplies and we discussed them with Israel.”