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Mobutu Wants and Expects Increased Israeli Investment, Trade with Zaire

May 20, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, ending a week-long visit to Israel today, made it clear that he expects increased Israeli investment in and trade with his huge, mineral rich central African nation.

Mobutu departed from Ben Gurion Airport with the same military and diplomatic honors that greeted his arrival there seven days ago — a 21-gun salute, brass-bands and four Israel Air Force jets roaring overhead in salutation. President Chaim Herzog, Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir were on hand to see him off — as they had been last Sunday to welcome him.

At an airport press conference, Mobutu made it clear he wants and expects the government to encourage major Israeli companies and Jewish and other industrialists here and abroad to invest in Zaire. “Respecting a commitment is very important,” he noted pointedly.

But on political matters he was less unequivocal. Asked if he might intercede with other African countries to resume diplomatic ties with Israel — as Zaire did two years ago — Mobutu said, “It is not for me to do that.” He indicated that his resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1983 had drawn criticism even from some sympathetic neighbors who thought he had been too impetuous.


But Israeli officials seemed very pleased with the outcome of Mobutu’s visit, the first three days of which were at the government’s invitation. He spent part of the rest of the time as the guest of Anglo-Jewish businessman Leon Tamman. The officials said that Tamman, an international financier, plans to invest some $400 million in Zaire and was seeking export incentives from the Israeli government for that purpose.

They noted that Zaire’s economy was improving. The effects of the energy crisis of the 1970s is fading and the prices of minerals Zaire produces — diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium — are rising on the world markets.

The officials said Mobutu sought no additional military assistance from Israel but rather a re-ordering of certain aspects of the existing aid package, mainly training for his armed forces. But he asked for and was granted better credit terms for military purchases in Israel.

The officials stressed that when Mobutu fell ill last Monday and had to cancel a visit to the holy sites in East Jerusalem, his illness was genuine, not “diplomatic.” The African leader was running fever when he called on President Herzog, they said. He and his party did in fact visit the holy places later in the week.

Finally, the Israeli officials were gratified that Mobutu, accompanied by his wife and an entourage of 110 persons, paid for the private part of his visit, most of it spent in Herzliya where the visitors were guests at a new luxury hotel owned by Tamman.

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