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Barak Won’t Cancel China Deal

April 3, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak today turned down a request by visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen to cancel a deal to sell a sophisticated airborne surveillance system to China.

Barak said he was aware of U.S concern over escalating tensions between China and U.S.-backed Taiwan but that Israel had already signed a contract to equip a plane with the system for China.

The United States has on several occasions expressed its displeasure over Israel’s $250 million plan, announced in November, to sell China the AWACS system, which allows aircraft to conduct long-range radar surveillance and coordinate forces during battle.

A plane outfitted with the system is to be delivered to China soon, and the sale of two more planes is being negotiated.

``The United States does not support the sale of this kind of technology to ... China because of the potential of changing the strategic balance in that region,″ Cohen told a news conference. ``With tensions running as high as they are in China and Taiwan, we see this as being counterproductive.

``I have expressed that to the prime minister,″ Cohen added.

Israeli media reports said the United States has linked some of its annual $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel to cancellation of the deal. Cohen did not mention any possible repercussions.

Barak, who also serves as defense minister, said he was aware of the need to coordinate sensitive arms deals with the United States. But, he said, ``We of course are aware of our commitments in the contracts we have signed.″

He left open the possibility of taking U.S. interests into consideration in future deals, like the proposal to provide two additional planes to China.

Update hourly