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New Development in Sharon Libel Case

Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir is willing to let third parties inspect a secret addendum to the 1983 Kahan Commission report and answer questions as to their pertinency in the libel action former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon has brought against Time magazine. The trial opened in New York earlier this month.

Zamir, who previously rejected a request by Time to examine the documents, was reported today to have proposed that a panel of three prominent Israelis agreeable to both sides in the case be given access to the addendum and be questioned by Time’s lawyers.

The proposal, to the Federal District Court in Manhattan, is in line with a Cabinet ruling that a personality acceptable to the government and to Time may answer specific questions related to the documents.

Sharon contends in his $50 million libel suit that a Time article last year defamed him by intimating that he encouraged the Christian Phalangist militia in Lebanon to massacre Palestinian civilians in two West Beirut refugee camps in September, 1982 to avenge the assassination of Lebanon’s President-elect, Bashir Gemayel, the Phalangist Party leader.

Time contends that its report was based on material in sections of the Kahan Commission findings never released for security reasons. The Commission’s published report found Sharon “indirectly responsible” for the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacres because he could have acted to prevent them. The report forced Sharon to resign as Defense Minister. He is presently Minister of Trade and Industry in Israel’s unity government.

DEFER HEARINGS ON THE APPEAL

Sharon insists there is nothing in the secret addendum which would support Time’s defense. Time has appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to overrule Zamir’s refusal to permit a number of ranking Israeli officials, including some of Sharon’s fellow ministers, to give evidence in the case.

The high court deferred hearings on the appeal today after a representative of the Attorney General told the justices that the Cabinet would discuss whether and how to make material and witnesses sought by Time available to the magazine’s lawyers.

Zamir, while seeking an accommodation, wants to avoid the spectacle of Cabinet ministers testifying against one of their colleagues. He has explained to the Supreme Court that this would be damaging to the interests of the State.

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