ACCESSION NUMBER:289225 FILE ID:NEA206 DATE:06/15/93 TITLE:U.S. "DEEPLY COMMITTED TO HELPING ISRAEL," ASPIN SAYS (06/15/93) TEXT:*NEA206 06/15/93 * U.S. "DEEPLY COMMITTED TO HELPING ISRAEL," ASPIN SAYS (Cites new threats to Israel and Mideast peace) (640) By Norma Holmes USIA Staff Writer Washington -- With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, "a whole new dimension" of threats to Middle East peace and security and to Israel have emerged, including "a whole series of threats in the nuclear area," Defense Secretary Les Aspin said June 14. "The Clinton administration is deeply committed to helping Israel cope with these dangers to increase the chances of peace," Aspin told the American Israel Public Affairs Executive Committee. "The world has changed, and the old threats are not now what we would consider to be the major threats. The major new threats are the missile and the knife," Aspin said. 1 "From one end of the spectrum, Israel faces the threat of ballistic missiles coupled with chemical, biological or even nuclear warheads. From the other...the danger of direct and sudden violence to individual citizens." Moreover, he said "radicalism, both secular and religious, has gained momentum over the last decade. It continues to pose a special threat to regional stability and to the peace process," he said. "Islamic extremists linked to state-sponsored terrorism are infringing on the basic human rights of moderate, non-violent Islamic fundamentalist groups who want to work within the system." A top priority of U.S. and Israeli security planners should remain stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, deterring their use and developing effective countermeasures, Aspin said. The defense secretary, who recently visited Kiev to persuade the Ukrainian government to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, said "the thing that is perhaps most worrying about the situation in Russia is the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons and the danger that they will somehow end up in the world market. "Syria, Libya and Iran already today have chemical and biological weapons. All they need now are long-range missiles. All three are actively looking for them. Libya wants to develop its own nuclear weapons program.... Iran is pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Iran and Iraq could obtain nuclear weapons by the end of the decade. We cannot allow these deadly pursuits to continue," he said. Aspin said that "at this time we have no evidence of any loose nuclear weapons out of the Soviet Union," but the question remains how to maintain the control over the nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, "how to make sure they maintain control." In another regional peacekeeping effort, Aspin said U.S. troops are involved with the forces of other nations in a United Nations military operation in Somalia. He said the June 5 ambush of Pakistani U.N. peacekeeping forces there "clearly required a U.N. response.... From the look of it, the ambush was premeditated, well-planned, and a test of the U.N. peacekeeping effort." "It is crucial that the United States support the U.N. effort and respond in the appropriate manner against Aidid's aggression and his weapons, supplies, and backers," Aspin emphasized, referring to the Somali warlord who was responsible for the June 5 ambush. "We hope it sends a clear message.... The United Nations and the United States refuse to tolerate this ruthless disregard for the will of the international community. And we will not tolerate this ruthless disregard for the people of Somalia." He said details of the most recent violence in Mogadishu June 13, when a number of lives were lost, are still unclear, but the United Nations authority there is conducting an investigation. "The United States deeply regrets any loss of life in Somalia, particularly when it comes to innocent people," Aspin stressed. NNNN .