Washington (Jun. 14)
The Reagan Administration went out of its way Friday to deny there had been any difference of opinion on its decision to stop delivery of four F-16 planes to Israel between Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and other top Administration officials.
Premier Menachem Begin charged Thursday that Weinberger had wanted harsher penalties against Israel for its air raid which destroyed Iraq’s nuclear plant. However, he said, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and National Security Advisor Richard Allen opposed Weinberger. This dispute had been widely reported in Washington before Begin made his charges.
The State Department issued a statement Friday saying that “the President’s national security advisors, including the Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Council Advisors, made a unified recommendation to the President on steps he should take in response to the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor.” Weinberger himself said later that he made no such recommendations.
David Passage, a State Department spokesman, said that it was “important to point out that the President makes policy.” He said the recommendation from the three officials was “unified” but he did not comment when asked whether the President’s final decision may have been different from that recommended by his advisors. Passage also said that the State Department could not confirm Begin’s assertion that the Israeli raid on the Iraqi nuclear plant was aimed at destroying a bomb-making facility beneath the reactor. Under questioning, Passage noted that when the U.S. condemned Israel for its raid, it stated that there had been “no evidence Iraq had violated its commitment” under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. A secret bomb-making facility would be in violation of the treaty.