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Rabin Surprised at New U.S. Probe

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin informed the Cabinet today that he met Friday with U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering about an investigation by American authorities of a Connecticut company suspected of exporting classified U.S. military technology to Israel without the required export licenses from the Defense and Commerce departments.

Rabin said he asked the envoy for an explanation of the affair involving Napco, Inc., of Terryville, Conn. He told the Ministers that Israel signed an agreement with Napco in December 1984. The deal was approved by the Defense Department and U.S. assistance funds were used to acquire the technology. Israel acted legally and openly, Rabin declared and expressed surprise at what he saw as an attempt to besmirch Israel’s name.

The matter came to media attention in the U.S. when an official of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Albany, N.Y. announced last Thursday that U.S. Customs agents had raided Napco and two other companies that were its sub-contractors in search of evidence of the possible illegal export of the technology to Israel.

It was described as a secret chrome-plating process used in the manufacture of cannon barrels for the American M-l tank. The process is said to make the cannon superior to any in the world.

A POSSIBLE FORM OF PRESSURE

Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin refused to comment today on suggestions that the Napco affair might have been instigated to put pressure on Israel in connection with the current investigation of the Jonathan Pollard spy case.

A team of U.S. State Department officials and FBI agents arrived in Israel last week and reportedly are questioning Israeli diplomats and others said to have had contacts with Pollard. The investigation is being conducted in tightest secrecy. The American officials have refused to speak to reporters since their arrival.

The reports of the allegedly illegal technology transfer did not appear to disturb Israeli officials when the story broke in the American media last week. But on Friday, Menachem Meron, Director General of the Defense Ministry, told a press conference in Tel Aviv that Israel’s dealings with Napco were completely open and legal.

He said the U.S. approved and financed the purchase from Napco “within the framework of the aid for military requirements and the permit has been duly given.”

Meron said Napco had contracted with Israel to build an installation here for the chrome coating process. For security reasons he would not say where it is to be located or when it will be completed.

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