TEL AVIV (Nov. 13)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin seemed to confirm Thursday that Israel supplied arms to Iran to help the U.S. obtain the release of American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
Rabin told a luncheon meeting of insurance agents here that “If a country very friendly to Israel appeals to us with certain requests in order to help it free hostages, we will help it, in one way or another.” He added, “I don’t think it is my duty to go into further details as long as another country — the country concerned — has not done so.”
Rabin most probably was alluding to U.S. President Reagan, who will go on national television Thursday night apparently to explain his reasons for supplying arms to Iran, which has been at war with Iraq for six years. (The New York Times and Washington Post reported Thursday that Reagan personally acknowledged selling weapons to Iran at a meeting with Congressional leaders Wednesday, after two weeks of denials by the Administration.)
According to media reports in the U.S. and other countries, Israel played the role of “middleman” in the clandestine operation by the White House’s National Security Council. When questioned by reporters Tuesday, Premier Yitzhak Shamir stated flatly that “Israel does not deal with supplying weapons to Iran.”
Rabin stressed at the luncheon that “Israel has never sold American arms, or arms which include American-made components, without previously obtaining U.S. approval.” He said international media reports to the contrary “are completely false.”
He said Israel’s policy was to do everything possible to effect the release of hostages by any means, including deals if military intervention was impossible. He cited as an example the freeing as part of an East-West exchange of Soviet Jewry activist Natan (Anatoly) Shcharansky last February after nine year’s imprisonment in the Soviet Union.