JERUSALEM (Dec. 2)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir described his three-day visit to Zaire as “historic” when he returned from that central African nation last night. It was the first official visit by an Israeli Foreign Minister to Zaire since it broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War. Formal ties were resumed six months ago and Israeli officials were saying today that Shamir’s visit bridged the nine-year rupture “as if it never existed.”
Only one formal agreement was concluded, however, during Shamir’s stay in Kinshasa. It is a framework for economic cooperation, signed yesterday. Israel will provide professional and organizational guidance in the field of agriculture.
Israel will also grant military assistance to Zaire. But it is understood that the two countries will not sign a broad military agreement beyond the military protocol signed by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon when he visited Zaire a year ago.
Officials stressed that Israel will not sell Zaire Soviet weaponry captured during the war in Lebanon last summer. They played down reports in the Israeli media that President Mobuto Sese Seko had angrily rejected such an offer. According to some Israeli correspondents who accompanied Shamir, Mobutu “raged” at the reports in the Israeli media and because of them he refused to accept, weapons captured from the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Syrians. (See related story.)
The returning Israeli correspondents also reported that Shamir’s visit aroused great interest in neighboring African nations particularly because the Foreign Minister was accompanied by a large entourage of Israeli businessmen and industrialists offering investment projects. This underlined the potential economic benefits that could develop from the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel, the correspondents reported.
VISIT TRIGGERS PARTISAN DISPUTES
Nevertheless, Shamir’s visit triggered partisan political disputes in Israel. The Labor Party demanded today that Shamir “tell the entire truth” about his visit to Zaire and dismissed the “rosy” reports by the Foreign Ministry. While government circles described the military connection between the two countries as “a very promising one ” and Shamir spoke confidently of an Israeli “come-back” in Block Africa, Laborites contended that Mobutu has reservations over a defense pact with Israel and fully supports the PLO.
Mobutu apparently does not want to worsen his relations with the Arab countries, already strained by his resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel. He reportedly did not raise the issue of the PLO in his talks with Shamir. But at a State ban-quest for the Israeli visitor, Zaire’s Foreign Minister, Kamanda Wa Kamanda, suggested that the. PLO has a role to play in solving the Palestinian problem. Kamanda is expected to pay a return visit to Israel in the next few months.
Shamir reportedly promised Mobutu that Israel would do what it could to help improve Zaire’s image in Washington as a barrier against Communism in Africa and therefore worthy of American support. Many members of Congress have expressed displeasure over the alleged repression of human rights by the Mobutu regime.
The opposition Citizen Rights Movement in Israel was sharply critical of Shamir’s trip. While it accepted the importance of renewing Israel’s ties with Black Africa, it charged that Shamir’s visit to Kinshasa created the impression that Israel was helping a dictator strengthen his regime.