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Israel, Egypt Earmarked for Most 1989 Foreign Aid

February 19, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Israel and Egypt are slated to receive a combined total of $5.3 billion in economic and military aid commitments in fiscal 1989 out of a global total of $14.3 billion, the State Department said Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead told a news briefing that even though the request to Congress for spending authority on foreign assistance is up about $200 million from the 1988 allocation, many pressing needs will remain unmet.

″It is difficult to operate a foreign policy with such limited funds,″ Whitehead said, noting that the overall international affairs budget has dropped by some 30 per cent since 1985.

Israel and Egypt have been given the highest priority in the foreign assistance allocations for years, and 1989 will be no exception. Israel is scheduled to receive commitments for $1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid while the figures for Egypt are $815 million and $1.3 billion respectively.

The $14.3 billion proposed by the administration would not represent actual 1989 outlays, because some of the money will be spent on projects extending over several years. The outlay figure is expected to be several billion less than the $14.3 billion request.

A U.S. official said that of the $1.3 billion in military aid proposed for Egypt, only a few million would actually be spent next year and the remainder would be in the pipeline for use in future years. The same holds true for the economic aid program although the percentage of cash outlays are somewhat higher compared with the military program for Egypt.

Meanwhile, the more than 40 aid recipients in sub-Saharan Africa - the world’s poorest region - are due to receive a combined total of $733 million in economic assistance commitments.

Whitehead said the high assistance levels for Israel and Egypt are based on need, their decision to make peace a decade ago and the wishes of the Congress.

″There is very little sympathy in Congress for a reduction,″ Whitehead said.

He noted that, unlike past years, the global totals are likely to receive congressional approval because they had been agreed to by the congressional leadership late last year.

In the past, however, Congress has earmarked specific amounts for countries it favors, forcing the administraion to make adjustments in the figures for other countries.

The administration has strongly opposed congressional earmarkings and Whitehead expressed hope that lawmakers will exercise restraint when they take up the 1989 proposals.

″Firm earmarkings ... are not a good way to run a railroad,″ Whitehead said.

Among the few surprises in the proposed country-by-country allocations was the elimination of the program for Ireland, which is receiving $35 million in commitments during the current year.

Whitehead said the decision to drop Ireland from the list was based on the perception that the United States ″does not receive a real return″ on its investment.

Irish diplomatic sources expressed hope that Congress will reinstate the funding.

For the past three years, U.S. aid to Ireland has been funneled through the International Fund for Ireland, in which several countries make contributions. The bulk of the funds have gone for the reconstruction of Northern Ireland, with a small amount earmarked for border counties in the Irish Republic.

The fund was set up in 1986 for a three-year period but the Irish sources, insisting on anonymity, said a fourth year of allocations had not been ruled out.

″We understand the view of the State Department that they don’t envisage funding beyond the third year, but the matter has to be considered by Congress where there is strong support for the International Fund,″ an Irish diplomat said.

The foreign assistance program also:

--Calls for a $98 million increase in commitments for Turkey to $623.5 million. Greece, Turkey’s principal rival, would receive a $7 million increase.

--Reinstates military grant assistance to eight Latin American countries which have been cut out of the 1988 program. All told, Latin American countries would receive $90 million more in economic assistance commitments and $55 million more in military assistance commitments than they have at present.

--Earmarks $32.4 million in assistance commitments - almost all economic - to Haiti even though aid to that country was suspended late last year when the military abrogated election laws. Whitehead said the proposed aid to Haiti would be allocated only if there is progress toward democracy.

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