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Israel Defense Minister Arens to Visit Washington for Talks

Defense Minister Moshe Arens was due to leave for Washington to meet with Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney on Friday in the first high-level U.S.-Israeli discussion since the new Israeli government was formed in June.

Arens had asked for the meeting with his American counterpart after he became defense minister last month.

During his scheduled three-day stay, Arens is expected to discuss “all security issues concerning relations between the two countries,” a Defense Ministry statement said.

The two will also discuss the Arrow anti-ballistic missile project, defense officials said.

Arens will also come to New York, where he will take part Sunday in a small meeting with Jewish leaders, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking to Israel Television reporters, said Thursday there was no logical reason for Jordanian King Hussein’s current dark, foreboding mood.

Hussein recently charged that Israel has been making illegal use of Arab rights to the region’s water, hinting that this could lead to an outbreak of war.

Hussein also appeared on the ABC television program “Nightline” and spoke pessimistically about the influx of Soviet immigrants, which he said would impact negatively on the region.

Shamir also said Syrian President Hafez Assad’s statements earlier this week in Egypt, heralded in the word media as a softening of his position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, had stopped short of a “breakthrough” but did represent a change of “tone.”

Shamir said Assad was apparently responding to his own suggestion, voiced several weeks ago, that Israel and Syria negotiate without preconditions. “Only he is putting up preconditions,” Shamir said.

(JTA staff writer Allison Kaplan in New York contributed to this report.)

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