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Peres Supports the Lavi

Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that he continues to support the Lavi, Israel’s second generation jet fighter plane, despite U.S. efforts to persuade Israel to abandon the project on grounds of excessive costs.

Peres spoke to reporters following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Dov Zackheim who came to Israel Sunday to propose alternatives to the Israel-built, American-financed aircraft. Israel is under heavy pressure by the Reagan Administration to give careful consideration to Zackheim’s report and proposals.

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering delivered a personal message from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin Monday, supporting Zackheim’s report. It is expected to be reviewed by Israel’s defense establishment during the next few weeks before Rabin raises the matter with the Cabinet.

A meeting between Zackheim and Rabin Monday was reportedly devoted to alternatives to the Lavi but there was no broad discussion of them. The Pentagon official is said to have brought with him at least five options, complete with cost estimates and production schedules for consideration by Israel.