Israel on Thursday tried to navigate through a diplomatic storm with the United States, which is opposed to its sale of a sophisticated radar system to Beijing. At the same time, US intelligence reports have said China is collaborating with Libya in building its missile arsenal.
Washington is worried the plane at the center of the row, a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 modified with an advanced airborne warning and control system (AWACS) could be used against U.S. and Taiwanese planes in the event of a war with China.
At a news conference with visiting Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told reporters the issue was not simple.
"We respect our relations with China and attach high importance to them. At the same time we are aware of American sensitivities to the matter and are talking to our friends in the United States in an effort to find a solution agreeable by all," Barak's office said he told Jiang during their meeting.
Jiang, who is the first Chinese leader to visit Israel, is on a mission to boost ties with the Jewish State.
"The United States is a great friend of Israel and a main supporter of our weapons systems for our defense, so we think it's not a simple issue," said Barak who discussed the deal with U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House on Tuesday.
Barak intercepted reporters' questions posed to Jiang, who has so far remained tight-lipped about the deal.
Foreign Minister David Levy said earlier on Wednesday Israel had been forthright with the U.S. about the sale.
"We haven't done anything behind the back of the United States...Americans know well we have not violated any law, we did not transfer any American technology or know-how," Levy said after meeting Jiang.
"Israel has not and will not do anything to harm American interests...I believe we will come to an understanding on this matter," he said.
State-owned Israeli Aircraft Industries has put a $250 million price tag on the first AWACS aircraft, which is ready for delivery to China. Beijing has options to buy several more.
US ACCUSES CHINA OF HELPING LIBYA BUILD MISSILES SYSTEM
In another development, the US has charged China of aiding Libya's attempt to further develop its long-range missile program with technology transfers, US intelligence officials said.
The Washington Times reported Thursday that the National Security Agency included details of China-Libya cooperation in a classified report early this month.
The Washington Times said the reports of technology transfer to Libya are the latest in a series of cooperative efforts between China and Tripoli.
Intelligence reports late last year indicated that Beijing was supplying the North African nation with a hypersonic wind tunnel, other reports linked China technicians with Libya's current long-range missile program. Also, China has agreed to build a railroad system in Libya.
The newspaper said the wind tunnel is expected to be used for missile tests while the railroad project is believed to be a cover for the counties' weapons-technology cooperation. Little is known of the Libyan missile program, the Washington Times reported. It is thought that Tripoli may use Chinese technology to improve its Al-Fateh missile, which has a range of some 600 miles, although the device is yet to be tested in flight.
The newspaper cited defense officials as saying the Libyans might also be looking to incorporate the longer-range Taepo Dong missile from North Korea.
Other signs that Libya is working to import knowledge and devices for its weapons programs include the arrest Wednesday in Switzerland of a Taiwanese businessman who was charged with trying to smuggle Scud missile part into Libya. Last November, British officials confiscated a shipment of missile components, believed to have originated in North Korea, bound for Libya, the Washington Times reported -- (Several Sources) - Photo AFP Archive.
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