WASHINGTON (Nov. 2)
The Carter Administration said Friday it is not objecting to Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) making a sales presentation to the government of Mexico on its Kfir C-5 warplane but cautioned that Israel would necessarily require U.S. permission to sell the plane should a sale between Mexico and Israel be agreed upon because it is powered by a U.S.-produced engine.
Israel was prohibited three years ago by the Carter Administration to make its sale to Ecuador when the State Department observed the introduction of the plane would upset the military balance in Latin America.
According to reports here, the Administration is now allowing Israel to show the plane to Venezuela and Colombia in addition to Mexico but the State Department would not confirm activity besides that with Mexico.
State Department spokesman John Trattner, asked about the report of the offer to Mexico, said that “Israeli Aircraft Industries on August 1 asked for an advisory opinion for an initial unclassified presentation to Mexico of the Kfir C-5, a lower performance version of the more advanced C-2 aircraft. They have to get our approval even to make the presentation since that airplane — the C-5 — is powered by a U.S. produced jet engine. After careful consideration, the Department decided there would be no objection to the proposed presentation. That’s where it stands.”
EXPLAINS WHY U.S. IS NOT OBJECTING
Asked why the U.S. is now allowing Israel to show its aircraft in Latin America when it objected to the deal with Ecuador, Trattner replied, “We have to consider the interests of American aircraft companies that also may wish to make sales to a given country.”
Trattner added: “I am not saying that was the reason in the case of Ecuador three years ago. In the case of Mexico, however, it is a fact no U.S. companies are interested in offering a sale to Mexico. Therefore, that is an element in the decision to allow Israel Aircraft Industries to make a presentation.”
Asked for a difference between the IAI presentation and a sale, Trattner noted the sale was up to the Mexican government. “This is a sales presentation. It does not amount to a sale.”
Pressed whether Israel would have to come back to the State Department for permission to make the sale if Mexico decides to buy the aircraft, Trattner replied “Yes, they will.” He said he would not “prejudge what the U.S. will do” at that time. “People can make sales presentations without prejudice to whether or not they will ultimately sell it,” he said.
When a reporter suggested that the U.S. approval of the presentation without approving the sale is merely “a tease” in election time, Trattner denied that possibility. “No, it is not a tease, ” he said. “I don’t really see what objection we could pose if an industry in another country wants to make a sale presentation and has to come to us because our engine is involved in the airplane under consideration.”