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Sharon Begins Zaire Visit

January 18, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon arrived at Kinshasa, Zaire this morning on a five-day official visit during which he is expected to discuss Israeli military training and equipment for that central African nation with its leader, President Mobutu Sese Seko, as well as agricultural projects.

Israeli journalists accompanying Sharon reported that the Defense Minister and his escort party of about 90 people landed at Kinshasa at 8:30 a.m. local time in an Israel Air Force Boeing transport. He was greeted at the airport in a brief welcoming ceremony and was scheduled to meet twice today with Mobutu.

Only yesterday, the Defense Ministry announced that Sharon, who had been expected to leave Saturday night, had postponed his trip “for a few days” because he had to be in Israel “to deal with current matters.” He met in Jerusalem last night with U.S. special Ambassador Philip Habib on the situation in Lebanon. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and David Kimche, head of the Israeli negotiating team with the Lebanese were also at that meeting.

Critics of Sharon claimed he delayed his departure for Zaire so that he would not be absent should any breakthrough occur in the Israel-Lebanese talks for which he might take credit. He advanced it because he was convinced no dramatic developments were imminent, the critics said.

Israeli sources said Sharon will be discussing two agreements with Mobutu. One deals with the establishment and training by Israel of a special Presidential guard for the Zaire leader. It will run for about a year. The other, a five year agreement, concerns the general re-organization and re-equipment of Zaire’s armed forces and the training of its soldiers. Sharon is expected to offer to supply Mobutu with new Israeli-made weapons as well as Soviet weapons captured during the war in Lebanon. He will also look into agricultural projects Israeli experts have been arranging for Zaire.

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