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Israel Selling Weapons to Chinese, U.S. Alleges

In a move with the potential to harm U.S.-Israeli relations at a sensitive moment in the Middle East peace process, the United States has accused Israel of selling advanced military technology to China.

CIA Director James Woolsey said Israel has been selling possibly several billion dollars in defense technologies to Beijing for more than 10 years.

The CIA assessment appeared in a report released recently by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

“We believe the Chinese seek from Israel advanced military technologies that U.S. and Western firms are unwilling to provide,” the CIA said in written responses to senators’ questions.

“The Chinese probably also hope that formalizing such ties will foster an environment in which they can recoup some of the cost they have incurred in more than a decade of acquiring defense technologies from Israel — a cost that may be several billion dollars,” the CIA said.

Israel has denied harming U.S. interests.

“Israel adheres to all of its commitments to the United States with regard to its relationship with China,” Ruth Yaron, the Israeli Embassy spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday.

ISRAELIS PLAY DOWN ISSUE

Israeli officials here were playing down the significance of the report and its timing.

They said they were not concerned that the issue could lead to a worsening of relations with the United States, because the two countries talked regularly about such issues and the United States was aware of what Israel was doing.

State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said the United States was in touch with Israel about technology transfer issues. He would not comment specifically on the latest reports.

Allegations about Israel selling sensitive weapons technology to China have been floating around for some time now, but the timing of this latest flare-up could raise questions here.

This controversy is rearing its head while Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is visiting China, the first Israeli prime minister to travel to Beijing since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.

In addition, the U.S. accusations are being made public as the United States has been trying to bolster both Israel and the Palestinians while they try to implement their historic agreement for limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sources here seemed relatively unconcerned about the controversy Tuesday, perhaps because the major newspapers in Washington did not carry reports on the issue.

Some in the pro-Israel community were taking a wait-and-see attitude about whether the issue would blossom into a full-fledged controversy.

Pro-Israel sources on the Hill said Tuesday that they were unaware of any action or concern about the report, so far.

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