Administration Seeks to Allow Egypt to Build U.S. Tanks

The Reagan Administration has taken the first “preliminary steps” toward allowing Egypt to manufacture an American tank, the Ml Al Abrams, a State Department spokesman confirmed Monday.

“We have decided, in principle, to assist Egypt in some form of co-production of the Ml Al tank,” spokesman Charles Redman said. He said that General Dynamics Corp., producer of the tank, has been issued a license to discuss with Egyptian officials the manufacture of the tank at the “rebuilding” facility for tanks the company is constructing in Egypt’s Nile Delta region.

Redman said that the proposal has not been discussed with Congress since it is only in the preliminary stage. However, there was a report in the Washington Post from Cairo Monday that Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul-Haim Abu Ghazala has already received approval for the project from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

Abu Ghazala, who reportedly has been pressing for the project as a matter of national priority, has been quoted in the Egyptian press as saying that Egypt will produce 1,000-1,500 tanks.

Supporters of Israel are expected to be watching the proposal closely, but have not yet taken any position on it. Opposition may come from those in Congress who fear the transfer of advanced military technology abroad. The Ml Al contains the latest and most sophisticated tank technology, although it has been criticized as extremely expensive to maintain, according to sources.

“Sensitive technology will be protected and will not be manufactured in Egypt,” Redman stressed.

Another source of opposition may come from those who want to protect jobs for American workers. General Dynamics now produces the tanks in Detroit and Lima, Ohio, which are in the so-called “rust belt,” an area that is hard-hit by unemployment.

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