NEW YORK (Jul. 9)
A wall of silence descended upon the three private American companies alleged to have conspired with Israel in an attempt to illegally obtain for the Jewish State the technology for cluster bombs, a weapon the United States banned from export to Israel in 1982.
Representatives of the three companies contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said they have “no comment” on the allegations involving Israel. Persons answering the telephones at the companies — two in Iowa and the other in Erie, Pennsylvania — refused to discuss the allegations or to provide any detailed information about the companies’ operations.
The Justice Department and the U.S. Customs services are investigating the three companies for allegedly acting in collusion with representatives of the State-owned Israel Military Industries to evade the Arms Export Control Act. The law limits defense items that can be exported from the U.S. without an export license.
ISRAEL DENIES ALLEGATIONS
In Israel, meanwhile, Defense Ministry officials said there was no basis for the allegations against the Jewish State. “The entire development of cluster bombs in Israel is original and independent and there fore there is no foundation to the allegations against Israel, “a Ministry spokesman said. He added that all technological know-how reaching Israel from the U.S. arrived in Israel legally.
In Washington, the Israel Embassy issued an angry rebuttal to the charges. An Embassy spokesperson referred to a statement issued in Israel by the Defense Ministry. (See separate stories.)
U.S. ENVOY MEETS WITH PERES
Thomas Pickering, the United States Ambassador in Israel, Tuesday night handed Premier Shimon Peres the text of the charges under investigation and questions being asked by the American law enforcement agencies.
It has been charged that Israel sought to purchase technology to build cluster bombs from the American contractors and urged them to describe the equipment sold to make it appear that it is not being used for military purposes.
The U.S. halted sale of cluster bombs to Israel in 1982 after reports that Israel used the deadly antipersonnel weapon when it invaded Lebanon.
Pickering reportedly promised Peres that the investigation of the charges would be “discreet and quiet.” But sources here noted Wednesday that information was being leaked to the American media, apparently by officials of the Justice Department or the Customs Service.
Israel’s Ambassador in Washington, Meir Rosenne, was called to the State Department Tuesday by Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who informed the envoy of the ongoing investigation, it was reported in Jerusalem.
According to U.S. Customs officials, federal agents have conducted searches in Iowa at the Vector Corp. in Marion and Bexco International in Cedar Rapids. Another search was planned at Assembly Machines Inc. in Erie, Pa. The federal agents seized records at Bexco, a firm with only two employes which acts as a manufacturer’s representative for Vector, according to the reports.
One report form Washington Wednesday said several officials of Israel Military Industries and of a number of other American companies have been subpoened in the ongoing investigation.
The reports of Israeli efforts to obtain cluster bomb technology follows on the heels of the continuing U.S. probe into the spy scandal involving U.S. Naval analyst Jonathan Pollard, who has admitted to supplying Israel with sensitive intelligence data.