U.S. drops objection to Israel's sale of Phalcon system to India

Thursday, May 22, 2003

TEL AVIV The United States has approved a proposed $1 billion sale of Israeli advanced early-warning systems to India.

Senior U.S. officials told Israel that the Bush administration no longer has reservations to the Israeli sale of the Phalcon airborne early-warning radar to New Dehli, Israeli government sources said. The sources said the White House move came amid Indian pressure as well as a new drive by President George Bush to launch the so-called roadmap toward a Palestinian state.

"There were numerous talks with the administration and they could not come up with one solid reason not to proceed with the sale except the Pakistan issue," an Israeli defense source said. "That was an argument that only India could respond to."

India and Israel have been negotiating for New Dehli's procurement of the Phalcon since 2001, Middle East Newsline reported. India has expressed interest in three Phalcon systems.

The India Air Force has set a requirement that any early-warning and control system would be installed in an Il-76 transport plane. Israel plans to obtain the Ilyushins from Russia.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Thursday that the administration did not place any conditions on the Israeli Phalcon sale to India. Israeli officials said the Phalcon does not contain any U.S. components.

For the last 18 months, the State Department withheld approval from the Phalcon sale because of the escalation in tension between India and Pakistan. Last week, India announced a reconciliation drive with Pakistan, including the prospect of opening an embassy in Islamabad.

The Phalcon approval was reported as Israel and the United States continued high-level talks regarding efforts to launch a process for a Palestinian state. An envoy of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weissglass, held talks in Washington on late Wednesday with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the so-called roadmap.

Israeli media reports said on Thursday that Ms. Rice urged Israel to begin dismantling unauthorized outposts in the West Bank. Later, Ms. Rice met Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss Palestinian reform measures.

Last year, the United States formally launched a defense relationship with India. U.S. defense contractors have already delivered to India the ANTPQ 37 fire-finding radars, advanced sensors and night-vision systems.

In 2000, Israel, under U.S. pressure, suspended a sale of the Phalcon to China. Since then, Israel decided it would consult with Washington regarding major military sales to countries that were not considered allies of the United States.

Haaretz said the administration is also considering a proposal to sell the Arrow-2 missile defense system to India. The Arrow-2 interceptor is regarded as a joint U.S.-Israeli missile and Washington has so far not allowed Israel to export the system. India, South Korea and Turkey have expressed interest in the Arrow-2 battery.

More than a year ago, Israel delivered the Green Pine early-warning radar to India. The radar was developed and produced by the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries and was said to have tracked Iraqi missile launches toward Kuwait during the U.S.-led war in March.

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