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THE PALM BEACH POST SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1991 11A

Sanctions waived against Israel for sale to S. Africa

Washington Post News Service


WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence agencies recently determined that Israel exported key ballistic missile components to South Africa, but President Bush has decided to waive sanctions against Israel called for under U.S. law, according to administration and diplomatic officials.

The officials said Bush's decision, which has not been publicly announced and is being treated with extreme sensitivity inside the administration, was motivated in part by concern that punishing Israel would undermine its position at the Middle East peace conference due to open this week and could further aggravate U.S.-Israeii relations. Israeli sources said the decision to waive the sanctions took into account Israel's agreement last month to pledge adherence to the Convention for the Limitation of the Spread of Missile Technology.

The convention was adopted in 1987 by the United States and other industrialized nations to prevent the proliferation of missiles to Third World nations. Its rules are designed to prevent the develop ment of·missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads by countries that do not have such technology.

The Israeli sources also said Israel has told the United States it is following through with a 1987 decision not to renew military contracts with South Africa.

White House and State Departs ment spokesmen refused to comment on Bush's decision to waive the sanctions against Israel.

Officials said the ballistic missile components at issue were shipped within the past year by an Israeli government-affiliated weapons company to the Armaments Corp. of South Africa, which also is government-affiliated. The firm, known as Armscor, has long had close ties with Israeli weapons engineers. Despite U.S. and allied countries' objections, Armscor has played a leading role in South Africa's development of an advanced missile capability.

In the Bush administration's deliberations on the incident, the Israeli company fared considerably better than the South African firm. On Oct. 15, Armscor was slapped with a two-year suspension of rights to export or import products from U.S. territory and barred from receiving U.S. government contracts for the same period.

Such sanctions are stipulated by last year's defense bill, which requires the executive branch to take action against foreign firms or nations known to have violated the 1987 international convention on missile technology transfers.

South African officials said they were awaiting an explanation from the Bush administration for the sanctions. They noted that little of Armscor's business will be affected because the company is subject to a U.N. arms embargo against South Africa.

However, executives of Armscor have complained publicly that the United States is damaging thg firm's efforts to gain new overseas markets now that South Africa's defense budget is shrinking.

The notice of the sanctions in the Federal Register made no mention of Israel's involvement in the incident, but the administration recently sent a classified notification to Congress of Bush's decision to waive sanctions against Israel, officials said. Numerous officials declined to speak about the incident on grounds that the matter was politically sensitive.

Washington and several European allies are seeking constraints on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to nations beyond the few that have such a capability. A Middle East arms plan announced by Bush in June calls for a ban on such sales to any nation in the region.


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