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Egypt Urges Arms Agreement That Includes Israel

July 5, 1991

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt’s foreign minister on Thursday supported a Chinese proposal to reduce arms in the Middle East, but stressed that any plan must not leave Israel with a military edge.

Amr Moussa’s remarks referred to a proposal made Wednesday in Cairo by Premier Li Peng that urged reductions in conventional arms and the elimination of chemical, biological and nuclear arsenals in the Middle East.

China is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which is to meet next week in Paris to start drafting limits on arms sales in the Middle East. The five nations - also including the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Britain - supply about 85 percent of the Middle East’s weaponry.

Li did not say whether China would cut back arms sales to the region, a major buyer for Beijing.

Moussa said, however, that while ″reasonable security considerations″ should be considered, no nation should be given ″an edge or special treatment.″

Moussa said one of Egypt’s principal aims is to remove weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East. He urged all Mideast nations to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and agree to U.N. monitoring of arms control pacts.

Israel has resisted any plan that would reduce its military superiority over Arab states. Egypt is the only Arab nation with a peace treaty and diplomatic relations with Israel.

In Tel Aviv, meanwhile, Israel’s defense minister told American supporters that the Jewish state needs almost 40 percent more in U.S. military aid to maintain its strategic edge.

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Arens, Thursday told members of the Zionist Organization of America that the country’s military edge over the Arabs already is threatened. He said he has asked the United States to increase Israel’s annual military aid package to $2.5 billion from $1.8 billion.

In May, President Bush proposed a freeze on nuclear-weapons programs and an eventual ban on missiles to the Mideast. Bush also asked major arms suppliers to curb conventional arms sales.

Although Egypt, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries publicly welcomed Bush’s proposal, they continued seeking weapons.

Israel has lobbied Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to increase money for its new Arrow anti-missile missile. Egypt reportedly asked Cheney for more artillery, tanks, Apache helicopters and F-16 fighters.

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