News

USIS Washington 
File

27 March 1998

DEFENSE SEC COHEN, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER DISCUSS MISSILES

(Cohen supports Israel's request for third Arrow Missile battery)
(420)
By William B. Reinckens

USIA Staff Writer



Washington -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said March 27 that
he will support an Israeli request for a third anti-missile defense
battery because of the growing problem of missile proliferation in the
Middle East.


In remarks at a Pentagon press briefing with Israeli Defense Chief
Yitzhak Mordechai, Cohen called the request "mutually beneficial." The
two defense chiefs met earlier to discuss regional and security
concerns in the Middle East. Cohen noted that this was their fourth
meeting and that he would be traveling to Israel in the next few
weeks.


"We are committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge," Cohen
said about the United States' continued support for Israel's
anti-missile defense program. Israel already has plans for the
deployment of two other anti-missile batteries. The Arrow Program
costs $1.8 billion annually, with the United States supplying funds
and Israel supporting research.


"Israel has determined, in light of the growing missile proliferation
in the region, that it would need three batteries to protect much of
its population," Cohen said.


The question of Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon was also
discussed during their meeting. "We stand solidly behind, of course,
(UN) Security Council Resolution 425," Cohen said, which requires
Israel to withdraw completely from southern Lebanon.


Asked what Israel would do if it were attacked by SCUD missiles by a
belligerent state in the region, Mordechai responded: "We hope that we
would not be attacked by any state or any enemy."


"We fully supported what the United States decided to do in the Gulf,"
Mordechai said, referring to the recent crisis with Iraq, and for
bringing stability in the region.


Commenting on Israel's recent proposals to leave southern Lebanon, the
Israeli Defense Minister said "We are looking forward to change the
situation in Lebanon." However, he said, "it means that the Lebanon
government and army will (have to) take responsibility" for the
security concerns Israel has before any withdrawal takes place.
Mordechai asked for political support from the United States for its
plan for withdrawal from Lebanon.


"He is not seeking anything from the United States other than support
for the initiative," Cohen said about the withdrawal plan offered by
Israel for the United States and another country in the region to
assist Lebanon in dealing with security and terrorism concerns on its
northern borders.