Israel Says ‘Not Threatened’ by Egypt’s Efforts to Develop Korean Missile
Israel has said that it is not threatened, at least in the short-term, by Egypt’s efforts to develop a variant of the North Korean No-Dong intermediate-range missile, according to a report by the Middle East Newsline (MENL) on Tuesday.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer acknowledged Egypt's efforts to produce the No-Dong variant, but said the issue was being discussed in what he termed "diplomatic channels" between Jerusalem and Washington.
"We are not exactly worried by the latest developments in Egypt," Ben-Eliezer said. "We are not the only neighbor of Egypt."
Defense officials said Israel had assessed that Egypt was not planning an attack on the Jewish state. Cairo's restraint, they said, would apply even if Iraq and Syria launched a war against Israel.
According to MENL, the Israeli military assessment is that Iraqi forces would be destroyed long before they arrived at the Jordanian or Syrian border with Israel.
They said this would deter Egypt's military, which at most would move some units into the Sinai peninsula.
Israeli sources said the Egyptian No-Dong issue had been raised by the United States with Egypt. The result, they said, appeared to be a suspension of plans by Egypt to import 50 North Korean engines for Cairo's intermediate-range missile program.
A previous report by Haaretz newspaper said that a secret delegation from the Egyptian Defense Ministry visited Washington for talks on Egypt's ballistic missile deals with North Korea.
According to the paper, the visit to the US followed American concerns that Cairo and Pyongyang had signed a deal for the delivery of No-Dong ballistic missile technology to Egypt.
The No-Dong's operational range is 800 kilometers.
The paper added that tripartite meetings among officials from the US administration, Congress and the Egyptian government had taken place in an effort to assuage congressional concerns about the missile deal and Cairo's links with Pyongyang.
An observer quoted in the report noted that the announcement of "satisfactory answers" suggested that the deal involved technology for upgrading the Scuds that Egypt already possesses, rather than production of the No-Dong. However, said Haaretz, no confirmation of this assessment was provided by other sources.
Earlier in July, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied US intelligence reports that his country aimed to produce the intermediate-range missiles, according to MENL.
In the first public reference to the matter by the president, Mubarak said his regime was not interested in what he termed long-range missiles.
Mubarak told the Al Mussawar magazine that Egypt had no use for such a program, because Cairo did not harbor hostile intentions toward any country.
Western diplomatic sources were quoted by MENL as saying Mubarak relayed a similar message during his visit to Washington in March. At the time, Mubarak met President George Bush, senior administration officials and congressional leaders.
The news service also reported then that Mubarak appeared "relieved" over initial congressional approval to continue US military aid to Egypt.
The issue was being pressed by several Republican leaders in the House and Senate who expressed dismay over Egypt's “human rights violations” as well as efforts to develop the intermediate-range missiles.
US officials reported that North Korea had tested an engine used in the long-range Taepo Dong-1 missile program. A recent test was said to have been the most significant development in North Korea's missile development program since 1998, said MENL.
Each year, Egypt receives $1.3 billion in US military aid and about $630 million in civilian aid - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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