PRAGUE (Oct. 9)
Czechoslovakia announced Tuesday that it is halting the export of tanks to Syria and heavy weapons sales to all Middle Eastern countries, in a gesture of support for the peace process in that region.
The decision by the federal authorities, who urged other countries to do the same, demonstrated support for the proposed regional peace conference the United States and Soviet Union hope to convene this month.
Czechoslovakia had been planning to export Soviet-made T-72 tanks to Syria. This cancellation affects those plans, which had been opposed by Israel and the United States.
But it could put the shaky Czech and Slovak Federal Republic in further jeopardy and arouse anti-Jewish feelings in a large segment of the population.
The suspension of arms sales to the Middle East could strengthen separatist and nationalist groups in the Slovak republic, where most of the heavy weaponry is manufactured.
Reduced arms production since the end of Communist rule has contributed to rising unemployment in several regions of Slovakia, providing ammunition for social protests and nationalist agitation.
Jews could be held liable because of the juxtaposition of the decision to halt arms exports with the upcoming state visit of President Chaim Herzog of Israel.
He will arrive in Prague on Oct. 14 at the invitation of President Vaclav Havel and will tour both the Czech and the Slovak areas of the federated country until his departure Oct. 20.