TEL AVIV (Mar. 29)
U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney arrived here Wednesday evening, with his wife, two children and a group of aides, for a two-day visit, hosted by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
It is the first trip to Israel by an incumbent U.S. defense secretary in three years.
During his brief stay, Cheney was to hold meetings with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister David Levy and Arens. He also was to visit Israel Defense Force installations.
Cheney and Arens were expected to explore possibilities for Middle East conventional arms controls. But those discussions were overshadowed by President Bush’s announcement Wednesday afternoon of a new arms control plan for the Middle East.
Israeli officials were reported to be upset by the fact that Israel was not consulted in advance of the president’s announcement, which he made in an address to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Shamir had written to Bush, asking him specifically to postpone announcing details of the plan until after he and Arens could discuss it with Cheney.
In their talks, Cheney and Arens were expected to discuss further American support for the Arrow anti-missile project being undertaken by Israel with major U.S. financing.
Observers said Arens would also press for implementation of a long list of other pro-Israel defense-related measures approved by Congress but not yet initiated.
According to the U.S. budget for this fiscal year, Washington is supposed to provide Israel with $700 million worth of “drawdowns,” or surplus military equipment; $400 million worth of propositioned U.S. petroleum and other provisions; and $15 million for the dredging of Haifa Bay so the U.S. Sixth Fleet can move closer to shore.