<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Olmert pushed satellite deal with Venezuela

Olmert pushed satellite deal with Venezuela

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

TEL AVIV Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secretly promoted the sale of satellite services to Venezuela in defiance of the U.S., a newspaper here reported.

The Israeli daily Maariv said Olmert sought to facilitate the sale of satellite services to the government of President Hugo Chavez by the Israeli firm ImageSat. Olmert, the newspaper said, was blocked by the Israeli Defense Ministry, which did not want to spark a crisis with the Bush administration.

The United States has opposed Israeli military or satellite services to Venezuela. Chavez has been regarded as a key ally of Iran.

The prime minister, investigated on charges of bribery and tax evasion, was said to have ordered an Israeli diplomat in Venezuela to facilitate the ImageSat deal. Olmert also sent a letter to Columbia's defense minister in which the prime minister promoted ImageSat, owned largely by Israel Aerospace Industries.

Olmert, who leaves Monday for the United States and a meeting with President George Bush, has denied the Maariv report, published in late May. The prime minister, however, did not deny sending the letter to Colombia's defense minister.

The police allegations against Olmert have stemmed from testimony from an American businessman who said he relayed more than $150,000 in cash to the prime minister. The businessman, Morris Talansky, was also involved in ImageSat's dealing with Venezuela.

Talansky, an investor in ImageSat, was one of a handful of investors who sued IAI for blocking a satellite deal with Venezuela. The suit was filed in 2007 in U.S. district court in New York City.

In 2006, the United States blocked an Israeli attempt to upgrade Venezuela's fleet of F-16 multi-role fighters. Defense industry sources said Washington was likely to reward Israel by approving an upgrade project by Israel's Elbit Systems for F-16A/Bs sought by Romania.

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