Zemin Welcomed in Israel Amidst Row over AWACS Deal

Published April 13th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Israel welcomed Wednesday Chinese President Jiang Zemin amid a row with the United States over a deal to equip Beijing with sophisticated AWACS early warning radar planes. 

A senior Israeli official said US President Bill Clinton warned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday in Washington against the $250m-sale. 

"Clinton told Barak that even the supporters of Israel ... oppose the move and that it could create problems and discomfort to Israel," the official, who spoke aboard Barak's plane returning from their summit in Washington, said. 

"Barak said he had a commitment to China because part of the deal is already signed," the official, who refused to be named, added. 

"Israel is aware of the US opposition and it will keep a very close dialogue on the issue," he said. 

The Israeli daily ‘The Jerusalem Post’ reported Thursday that Chinese president issued a veiled attack on the United States at a state dinner at Beit Hanassi Wednesday evening in response to criticism.  

"With the collapse of the centuries-long colonialist system and the end of half a century of Cold War, it has become increasingly difficult for hegemonism and power politics to go on and for the very few big powers or blocs of big powers to monopolize international affairs and control the fate of other countries," Zemin said.  

Other members of the government also indicated Wednesday that the sale would go ahead despite US unease, where some congressmen have suggested that the annual three billion dollars of US aid to Israel should be tied to abandoning it. 

Foreign Minister David Levy told journalists Israel was looking for "a golden path" of compromise. 

"We are in coordination with the United States and we would not do anything behind their back or that would endanger Americans themselves," Levy said. 

The deal, concluded in 1996, could provide China with up to eight of the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) in Russian-built Ilyushin-76 planes. 

Delivery of the first plane is understood to be imminent, giving Beijing an important capacity which it does not yet possess, and which Washington fears will be used to China's advantage in an eventual conflict over Taiwan.  

Wednesday's edition of the daily newspaper Ha’aretz quoted an official accompanying Barak to Washington as saying that "Israel is not afraid" of US pressure. 

However another official told AFP that a compromise could be reached, for example by providing China with only one of the AWACS planes. 

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh seemed to be thinking along these lines when he told state radio: "In any case it's only a matter of one plane, and a single aircraft cannot tilt the military balance of a whole region." 

Later Wednesday after an official reception China and Israel signed two agreements on bilateral cooperation in the fields of education and technological research and development at the president's palace in Jerusalem – (Several Sources)- Photo AFP  


© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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