Washington (Jun. 15)
The State Department refused today to confirm that the United States shared Israel’s concern that Iraq was on the verge of building a nuclear bomb.
Instead, David Passage, a State Department spokesman, insisted that the United States still sticks to the statement made when it condemned Israel last Monday that it had “no evidence Iraq was violating” its international agreements not to use the nuclear plant near Baghdad to build nuclear weapons.
Israeli newspapers have reported that part of the information that convinced Israel that it had to destroy the plant on June 7 came from U.S. intelligence. Passage today would say only that the U.S. shares intelligence with a “number of countries” in the Middle East but he quickly added that he was not confirming that one of these countries was Israel.
“URGENT” REVIEW CONTINUING
Passage also said the Reagan Administration was conducting on “an urgent basis” its “review” of whether Israel acted in self-defense in bombing the Iraqi plant. But he noted that the “review need not contain conclusions.” This implies that the Administration may leave the determination to Congress, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue, starting Thursday.
Meanwhile, Passage said, the United States continues to believe “time is needed for diplomacy” to work out a peaceful solution to the Lebanese crisis. Premier Menachem Begin said in a television interview yesterday that Israel would not wait indefinitely for Syria to remove its SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles from Lebanon.
“We are working without a deadline,” Passage said, adding that the United States continues to urge “restraint” on all the parties involved.
Passage said that U.S. special envoy, Philip Habib had “useful” talks in Saudi Arabia over the weekend and is now in Damascus. Begin said yesterday that Habib would come to Israel on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Israeli Premier Menachem Begin said on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program yesterday that he authorized the raid on the Iraqi nuclear installation because he felt “absolutely sure” that Iraq planned to build an atomic bomb. In an interview broadcast live from Jerusalem, he also said he didn’t think his action had “embarrassed” President Anwar
Sadat of Egypt with whom he had met only three days before the Israeli air strike. He said he did not tell Sadat of his plans because it was a “military secret on which the lives of our pilots depended,” adding, “Doesn’t President Sadat have his military secrets. Does he tell me?”