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U.S. to Aid Israeli Defense

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 1996 – The United States has agreed to expand programs aimed at improving Israel's missile defense, according to Defense Secretary William Perry.

Perry and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres signed a joint statement of intent at the Pentagon April 28 to cooperate on theater missile defense. The administration is committed to maintaining Israeli Defense Forces' qualitative edge, Perry said at a press conference following the signing.

To enhance Israeli defenses, the United States will provide early warning data for Israeli ballistic missile defense systems. The United States will help develop interim defenses against Katyusha rockets until the Nautilus weapon system, designed to disable such short-range rockets, is developed and deployed, Perry said.

Plans call for developing a prototype Nautilus that will be available for tests in Israel by the end of 1997, Perry said. A U.S. team will go to Israel soon to establish the program.

The United States relayed data from its early warning satellites to Israel during Desert Storm, Perry said. The satellites detect ballistic missiles as they are launched.

"What we are planning to put together is a way of making that information available in a systematic and a timely basis," he said. "Warning will be given in a matter of seconds of any ballistic missile launch that in any way would threaten Israel."

Providing early warning data and helping provide for Israel's defense should be seen as a stabilizing action rather than an aggressive action, Perry said. "It should reduce any incentive of any country to launch a missile because they would see it would be ineffective."

Peace in the Middle East, according to Peres, is threatened more by fundamentalism and terrorism than by specific nations or weapons.

"The greatest danger are policies even more than weapons," he said. "Belligerent policies combined with long-range missiles and nonconventional weapons is a terrible combination that human experiences hardly knew in the past. There are always evil or extreme movements, but never did they possess either missiles or nonconventional weapons."

The Israeli prime minister said his nation also faces the daily threat of suicide bombers. To help counter this threat, Perry said, the U.S. Congress approved funding for an anti-terrorist program. Efforts are under way to work out the details of how it will be conducted, he said.

Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher helped negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon. During several weeks of fighting, Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas attacked Israel with Katyusha rockets. Israel responded with attacks on southern Lebanon.

Peres said he expects the cease-fire will hold because the Lebanese government has expressed "a clear will" to end the attacks since the real victims are the Lebanese. "The Hezbollah launches the Katyushas, but the Lebanese people are losing their normal lives," he said.

According to Peres, U.S. efforts on Israel's behalf are reopening the road to peace. "Let's face it, fighting terror means enabling the peace process to go ahead," he said. "The friendship between the United States and Israel is, among other things, a real attempt to promise peace to the whole region and to stop the attempt to stop it by minorities in the region."

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