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Cohen, Barak Reaffirm U.S.-Israeli Bonds, Discuss Contentions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

JERUSALEM, April 3, 2000 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met here April 3 to discuss the Middle East Peace Process, the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon and U.S. opposition to Israeli arm sales to China.

Cohen and his delegation also received reports on the Israeli Arrow anti-missile system and the Israeli high- energy laser program. The two leaders weren't meeting to announce a spectacular development, but rather to see how things are going, just like two friends who check with one another regularly, officials said.

"We have come to Israel to reaffirm the strong and indestructible bonds between the United States and Israel," Cohen said during a joint press conference with Barak. He praised Barak for continuing "his courageous quest for peace" and to monitor progress on programs that "allows Israel to maintain its qualitative edge to ensure its security."

Barak said Israel will continue to push forward on talks with the Palestinians "and to live up to our decision to pull out from Lebanon in July."

"We mentioned [to Cohen] that we were frustrated by the Syrian response to ideas raised by President Clinton in Geneva," Barak said. "We did not close the door on this track [toward peace with Syria], but we are realistic enough to understand that the possibility that the conversation will be resumed is remote."

One area of disagreement between the two countries is over the sale of some advanced technologies to China. "I have indicated before that the United States does not support the sale of this type of technology to China because of the potential for changing the strategic balance in that region," Cohen said. "With tensions running as high as they are in China and Taiwan we see this as being counterproductive. I have discussed that with the prime minister, and we will continue to discuss it in the future."

Barak said he is aware of U.S. sensibilities, but said, "We are also aware of our commitment and the contracts we have signed." He said Israel will continue to coordinate with the United States on every issue that might risk American interests.

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