U.S. slaps sanctions on Israel

Sale of unmanned aerial vehicles to China irks America

Conal Urquhart

TEL AVIV: The United States has imposed sanctions on Israel after a dispute over Israel's sale of drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — to China, according to news reports.

The U.S. has suspended co-operation on several development projects and frozen delivery of night-vision equipment.

An official at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv said he was aware of the reports but would not comment on them. He said the information about the sanctions had come from the Israeli Government and not the U.S.

The sanctions have been in place for at least three months and were approved by Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, and Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, seven months ago, according to the reports.

Washington angry

Although the U.S. is primarily angered by the behaviour of civil servants whose tenure stretches back to the Labour Government of Ehud Barak in 2000, the crisis threatens Israel's relations with the U.S.

A report in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz concluded: ``Following the crisis, one can sense the repulsion toward Israel among lower — and middle-ranking officials in Washington.

``More and more of them are saying that it is not worth doing business with Israel.''

The U.S. believes that Israeli officials lied to them about the export of Harpy Killer drones to China.

The officials claimed that Israel was merely refurbishing old drones which had been exported with American consent. The U.S. argued that the drones had been upgraded using new technology which it had shared with Israel.

The U.S. fears that China is becoming increasingly well-armed and may seek to settle longstanding territorial and political disputes by the threat and use of force.

China's threat

China has repeatedly threatened Taiwan with attack if it declares independence, and South Korea and Japan are concerned about China translating its size into military power.

The U.S. is also keen that the E.U. maintain its arms embargo on China, which was put in place after the crushing of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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