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State Dep’t. Vague over Specifics of the Memorandum of Understanding

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The State Department was vague today over the specifics of the meaning of the memorandum of understanding signed yesterday by Israel and the United States, including the outline of the “region” it was designed to defend and which country besides the Soviet Union it was aimed at.

Department spokesman Dean Fischer stressed that the United States-Israeli strategic cooperation implemented by the memorandum is “not aimed at any country or groups of countries in the Middle East.” He said it was aimed at a threat to the “region” from the Soviet Union or “Soviet-supported forces from outside the region.”

The “region,” and not the Middle East, is a term used throughout the memorandum of understanding signed by Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

Fischer refused to define the region today nor would he list any of the Soviet-supported forces from outside the region that are considered a threat. He refused comment on a suggestion that one such force might be made up of Cubans in South Yemen or Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

The memorandum does not list any specific joint Israeli-U.S. activities except for naval and air exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. Fischer said that this is “an overall agreement within which certain specific details will be worked out” by the working groups that will begin meeting in January.

THE AGREEMENT IS NOT A TREATY

The agreement is not a treaty and Fischer noted that it does not need approval of Congress. However, he stressed that Administration officials will probably discuss the details of the agreement when they appear before congressional committees during the next few months.

Fischer said that the strategic cooperation was “wholly consistent” with the U.S. policy of preserving Israel’s security. He said there was no attempt to down play the agreement by not allowing photographers to take pictures of the signing by Weinberger and Sharon. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said the same thing when he was asked about the signing after his 1 1/2-hour meeting with Sharon this morning. He said the U.S. was pleased by the agreement.

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