WASHINGTON (Dec. 29)
Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D. NY) said today that he will introduce legislation in the new Congress next month that would bar permanently the sale of six U.S. made marine engines to Fiat of Italy for installation in four frigates the Italian firm has contracted to build for the Iraqi navy.
Rosenthal stated his intention in the course of his disclosure of a report to him from the General Accounting Office (GAO) that revealed, he said, “a serious failure of coordination” between the Department of State and the Department of Commerce when the General Electric Co., manufacture of the engine cores, applied for a license to export them to Fiat.
“The crucial role of the White House in the engine sale is apparent from a close reading of the report,” Rosenthal said. General Electric shipped two engines to Italy but, on State Department instructions not to export the others in the $11 million deal, it put them in storage.
The GAO review, initiated at Rosenthal’s request last Sept. 19, said that though the engines, in Rosenthal’s words, “clearly were for military pur poses and were destined for one of four nations which President Carter had, a month earlier, identified as supporters of international terrorists,” the Policy and Planning Division of the Department of Commerce approved General Electric’s application for an export license, seeing “no reason to refer to other agencies.”
Rosenthal said that “at no time” did the Commerce Department advise the State Department’s appropriate political offices of the, license application approval.
According to the GAO, Rosenthal said, Italian Prime Minister Francisco Cossiga had asked then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about General Electric’s application for a license and the Secretary had replied after some checking with whom it is not known–that the license was approved.”
House and Senate protests against the export of the engines, Rosenthal said, went unanswered until Aug. II when Rosenthal was informed by the State Department that “the Italian government had made the sale of the engines an important issue between Italy and the U.S. for both political and economic reasons.”
Congressional criticism of the sale intensified after the Iraqi-backed Arab Liberation Front attacked Kibbutz Misgav Am in Israel last spring and killed three civilians and wounded 16.