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Israel ‘regrets’ U.S. Haste in Suspending F-16 Deliveries

Israel said today that it very much regretted the Reagan Administration’s “unjust” decision to suspend delivery to Israel of four F-16 jet fighters pending a determination of whether Israel violated U.S. law by the use of American-made aircraft in its attack Sunday on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

The mildly-worded statement read by Foreign Ministry spokesman Naftali Lavi was mainly a reiteration of Israel’s official explanation and justification for the raid. Earlier, Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori said the American move was the result of a misunderstanding and would not lead to a crisis in relations between the two countries.

Zipori said Israel had a basic understanding of the significance of American aid and the limitations placed on it. But he stressed that only the Israeli government could define Israel’s defense needs, not any other government, no matter how friendly. He said Israel used the American planes in the Sunday raid because they were the weapons most suitable for the attack.

Lavi repeated Israel’s contention that it had acted in defense against threats to its existence by Iraq. He noted that Iraq has declared itself to be in a state of war with Israel since 1948, it was an active participant in all Arab wars against Israel and has continued to refuse to sign an armistice agreement with Israel. The statement also noted that Iraqi leaders have time and again expressed their enmity toward Israel and their aggressive intentions and have not restricted or disguised their plans to use any weapons, conventional or unconventional, against Israel.

According to the statement, Israel exhausted every diplomatic means before it decided to take military action against Iraq’s nuclear facility. Lavi explained in that connection that for five years Israel had tried to persuade France not to provide Iraq with a nuclear weapons capability, but its representations were in vain. Asked by reporters why Israel took no action during the administration of French President Valery Giscard d’ Estaing, who concluded the nuclear deal with Iraq, but struck only weeks after the election of President Francois Mitterrand, who is more sympathetic to Israel, Lavi replied that to wait any longer would have meant an attack on an active nuclear reactor with the danger of radioactive fall-out in the Baghdad area.

HABIB CONTINUING MISSION, U.S. SAYS

The Reagan Administration maintained today that special envoy Philip Habib is continuing his efforts to prevent a conflict between Israel and Syria over Lebanon. “We have not had any indication from any of the parties that they think it (the Habib mission) should be discontinued,” David Passage, a State Department spokesman, said. Habib has been in Beirut since Monday, apparently waiting for the furore over Israel’s attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility to subside.

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