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U.S. questions Israeli-Chinese arms deal

Dec. 15, 2004 at 6:24 PM

JERUSALEM, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Israel's Defense Ministry confirmed Wednesday the United States has once again raised the issue of arms sales to China.

However, ministry officials denied a Channel 2 TV report saying the United States has demanded Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron be fired.

Channel 2 TV said the U.S. is demanding Yaron's dismissal over an Israeli-Chinese arms deal in which China sent Israel a "sensitive weapons system" for upgrading. It did not identify the weapon.

The Ha'aretz news service quoted unidentified Israeli sources as saying U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Planning Douglas Feith told people who tried to mediate the affair that it was "either me or Amos Yaron."

The United States has blocked the sale of an early warning airborne Phalcon system to China.

The Defense Ministry's media advisor said that "several months ago the United States raised questions regarding Israel's security exports to China." He said the matter is in a process of "mutual discussion" with the United States that is being carried out in "a good atmosphere."

"There is no American demand to fire...Yaron and this matter is not on the agenda," the ministry said in a statement. "The defense minister ...stresses he has full confidence in Yaron."

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