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Sanctions Waived Against Israel After It Sold Arms to Pretoria

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The Bush administration has confirmed reports that it refrained from punishing Israel for violating an international convention by selling ballistic missile components to South Africa.

According to administration officials, President Bush waived congressionally mandated sanctions after Israel promised not to violate the convention again.

A State Department official said that when confronted in September, Israel pledged to abide by the 1987 international Convention for the Limitation of the Spread of Missile Technology. The convention’s goal is to deter Third World nations from acquiring the missiles.

To help promote the treaty, Congress last year gave the president authority to impose sanctions against countries that violate it. But, as it usually does, Congress included an escape clause that allows such sanctions to be waived if it serves U.S. national security interests.

By pledging to abide by the treaty, Israel “wipes away any past transgressions,” explained a pro-Israel lobbyist.

Ruth Yaron, the Israeli Embassy spokes-woman, said that when Israel signed the agreement with the United States a few weeks ago, it also told the United States that it will continue its 1987 policy of phasing out existing military contracts with South Africa.

The administration’s response to the Israeli violation was first reported over the weekend by The Washington Post. When asked about the report Sunday on the ABC-TV news program “This Week With David Brinkley,” Secretary of State James Baker said the administration has been adhering to the congressional statute.

Because of the transfer, the administration on Oct. 15 imposed sanctions on the South African company that received the missile components, Armaments Corp., the Washington Post reported. Armscor is barred for two years from exporting or importing products from the United States, the Post said.

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