State Dept. Wants to Delay Arms to Israel

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According to the New York Times, State Department officials are working to delay arms shipments to Israel: Israel wants hastened shipment of US rockets: NYT.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel has asked the Bush administration to hasten delivery of short-range anti-personnel rockets armed with cluster munitions, which it could use to strike Hizbollah missile sites in Lebanon, The New York Times reported on Friday.

Sourcing its report to two American officials, the newspaper said the request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly.

But the newspaper said some State Department officials want to delay approval because the rockets, while likely effective against hidden missile launchers, would also likely cause civilian casualties if used against targets in populated areas.

The United States has already approved the sale of the M-26 rockets, but the weapons had not been delivered when the Lebanon crisis erupted. Israel needs the rockets now, officials said, because it has been unable to suppress Hizbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks by using bombs dropped from aircraft and other types of artillery.

The shipment might be approved along with a directive to Israel that it must be especially careful about firing the rockets into populated areas, a senior official told the paper.

The newspaper said the United States maintained a moratorium in the 1980s on selling cluster munitions to Israel, after it learned civilians in Lebanon had been killed with the weapons during the 1982 Israeli invasion. But the moratorium was lifted late in the Reagan administration, and some types of U.S. cluster munitions have been sold to Israel, one senior official said.

State Department officials “are discussing whether or not there needs to be a block on this sale because of the past history and because of the current circumstances,” the senior official was quoted as saying in the Times.

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