Rabin Says U.S. Not Pressing Israel for Changes in Its Peace Initiative

The United States is “ready to assist in the implementation” of Israel’s peace initiative and has not asked for any changes in its call for Palestinian elections, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told reporters Friday.

He stressed that “it is not an American initiative, it is an Israeli initiative.”

Rabin spoke after meeting with Secretary of State James Baker late Friday afternoon. He also met Friday with Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

In Philadelphia, the defense minister told a gathering of Jewish leaders Sunday that his talks in Washington filled him with “great satisfaction.”

He said he returns to Israel encouraged that his “beleaguered country” is in a good position today and has the full backing of the Bush administration on major security and peace issues.

Rabin spoke at the final session of the 1989 Israel Bonds North American Leadership Conference, attended by 350 delegates from the United States and Canada. The conference opened Thursday.

The Israeli defense chief stressed that joint military projects with the United States are going forward with the full encouragement and cooperation of the U.S. government.

Rabin said that he and Baker discussed the peace process and the situation in Lebanon. They signed a memorandum of understanding to transfer material, supplies and equipment for research and development.

THE HIGH PRICE OF SECURITY

He wished his talks with his own Cabinet colleagues in Jerusalem “were as good” as those he held in Washington, Rabin said.

Rabin said Israel was spending “four to seven times more to fight terrorism” in Lebanon than it did before 1982, when it invaded that country.

He said that in addition to the Shiite Amal militia and the extremist Hezbollah, or Party of God, there are 30 new terrorist groups threatening Israel that did not exist in 1982.

He also said the Arab nations are spending $40 billion to $60 billion annually to maintain forces against Israel and to purchase arms.

He explained that Israel spends 85 percent of its defense budget to cope with threats resulting from the arms imbalance in the area.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Friday, Rabin blamed Palestinian elements for a Katyusha rocket attack on Israel from Jordan last week, saying the terrorists apparently feel they can no longer operate safely from Lebanon.

But Israel holds Jordan responsible, he said, because the attack was launched from its territory. Nevertheless, Rabin didn’t think Jordan would allow its territory to be used to open a new front against Israel.

The State Department on Friday condemned the rocket attack, which was believed to have been launched by a Palestine Liberation Organization faction.

But department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said the United States had no plans to end its ongoing dialogue with the PLO.

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