Washington (Jul. 2)
The Reagan Administration confirmed today that it will complete before July 17 its “review” of whether Israel violated its arms agreement with the United States by using American-made weapons to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor June 7.
The Administration also seemed to imply that the future shipment of F-16 jet fighters to Israel depends on its lifting the suspension of delivery of four F-16s imposed June 10. However, all other arms are being delivered as scheduled.
Both the White House and the State Department issued statements today declaring that the review is still going on but “it expects it to be completed before any decision is required on future shipments of F-16s.” This means July 17 when six more F-16s are scheduled to be sent to Israel.
State Department spokesman Dean Fischer continued to stress however that any new deliveries of F-16s are not linked with the four planes suspended in June. Sources noted however, that the Administration had originally expected the review to be completed before a decision had to be made on the next scheduled delivery.
Conceivably, the Administration, which has condemned Israel for the Iraqi raid, could bar all future deliveries of F-16s. Israel to date has received 53 of the 75 F-16s it ordered in 1978. Most observers in Washington expect the Administration to give approval for the 10 planes — the four suspended in June and the six scheduled to be delivered July 17. But Fischer discouraged all speculation saying to do so would be to “prejudge” the Administration’s conclusion of the review.
Fischer insistently repeated that there is no link between the review and the six F-16s and that no decision has been made on whether they will go to Israel as scheduled on July 17. He explained that a decision is needed as a “routine technical matter” even though the delivery date has already been scheduled since once a manufacturer notifies the Administration that a weapon is ready for shipment, an Administration official must sign the release for shipment abroad.
Meanwhile, Congress has also been conducting a review of the Israeli raid. Either it or the Administration could cut off arms to Israel. Hearings were held by both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee following Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s notification to Congress on June 10 that “a substantial violation” by Israel of the arms agreement “may have occured.”
Fischer said the Administration is conducting the review by itself, and in cooperation with Congress. He said it is conceivable that Congress could complete its study before July 17 although he denied the Administration was giving Congress a deadline.
Fischer also denied that the Administration was linking its decision on the F-16s to any other event such as the Israeli election, or in an effort to get Israel to lessen opposition to the Reagan Administration’s proposed sale ot AWACS reconnaissance planes and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia.