Sharon Says Detained Cargo Aircraft Was Carrying Arms for Ecuador, Not Argentina

Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said today that the Ecuadorian cargo aircraft, detained yesterday at Kennedy Airport here after a flight from Tel Aviv, was carrying arms for Ecuador. He said that Israel sold arms to Ecuador with “the approval and moral support” of the United States government. Sharon denied that the arms on the Ecuadorian plane were for Argentina, as American press reports speculated earlier.

Addressing a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Sharon said that Israel has no intention whatsoever of getting involved in the British-Argentinian dispute over the Falkland Islands and, therefore, will not sign any new contracts for arms sales to Argentina. But he stressed that Israel “will stick” to its previous commitments to sell arms to Argentina and will honor all past contracts between the two countries.

Sharon told the Presidents Conference that in his talks yesterday in Washington with Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger he raised the issue of U.S. “sanctions” against Israel whenever there is “misunderstanding” between the two countries, as, for instance, after Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear installations last June, or after Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights last December.

Sharon said that he “made it clear” that this is not the way to treat disagreements between two friendly countries, pointing out that it is possible that many “misunderstandings” between the U.S. and Israel will arise in the future.

WILL WAGE WAR AGAINST TERRORISTS IF NECESSARY

Sharon said that he told Haig and Weinberger that PLO terrorism is presently one of the major threats to peace in the Mideast. Noting that since last July, when an agreement to end the hostilities across the Israel-Lebanon border was signed at least 25 people were killed and 250 wounded as a result of PLO terrorism.

He warned that any new attack by the PLO can lead to war in the Mideast, noting that a few days ago an explosive was found in a school in Ashkelon and was dismantled before causing any harm. “If children were killed in Asfikelon we would have been already in war,” Sharon said.

He said that as long as Israel can deter the PLO terrorists, it will not go to war. “We do not want war, but if we have to we will go to war,” Sharon declared.

WARNS AGAINST SUPPORT TO IRAQ

Another topic of discussion between Sharon and Haig and Weinberger was the situation in the Persian Gulf. Sharon said that he “warned against efforts to support Iraq” which he characterized as “a radical country under strong Soviet influence.”

“The attempt to strengthen Iraq is a major threat to peace,” Sharon said, recalling that Iraq actively participated in all the wars against Israel since 1948.

On an NBC-TV interview this morning, Sharon said that Israel has provided a small amount of military aid to Iran because it views Iraq, which is at war with Iran, as a major threat to peace. He said that by tacitly supporting Iraq, Washington might be supporting a new pro-Iraq Arab coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

In his speech to the Presidents Conference, Sharon warned that the fall of Iran to Iraq might bring the Soviet Union into a greater position of power in the Persian Gulf.

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