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Concern Expressed at Britain’s Decision to Sell Jordan Tanks

Israeli diplomatic circles here have expressed grave concern at Britain’s decision to sell Jordan 200 advanced Chieftain tanks, some of which were originally built for the Shah’s regime in Iran.

The tanks, worth about 200 million Pounds Sterling, are the latest model of a fighting machine which Britain had originally hoped to sell to Israel. She dropped the idea about 10 years ago as part of a ban on arms sales to front line states in the Arab-Israel conflict. Britain’s only restraint now is her declared intention of not upsetting the Middle East balance of power.

The news of the sale to Jordan came as no surprise to Israeli circles here since it had been discussed by British diplomats, in Israel and the Israel Defense Ministry. Even so, Israeli sources say they are worried about the deal because it adds to the firepower of the Arab states opposed to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and because of Jordan’s refusal to enter the negotiations envisaged in the Camp David agreements.

The Jordanian tanks are likely to include some of 1350 models ordered by the Shah but cancalled by the new Iranian government. Several other countries are understood to be interested-in purchasing some of them.

(Meanwhile, in Washington, the State Department said yesterday that “we will continue to uiscuss with Jordan” the delivery of tanks, although King Hussein of Jordan said last Sunday on ABC-TV’s “Issues and Answers” program that his officials have told the U.S. government “we are not interested” in acquiring American M-60 tanks. He said “We asked and we were not given the right response and therefore we looked elsewhere” to acquire weapons. But State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said that “when an agreement is reached” on the discussions with Jordan over the delivery of U.S. tanks, “we will inform the Congress” which must approve such transfers.)

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