27 March 1998
(Cohen supports Israel's request for third Arrow Missile battery) (420) By William B. Reinckens USIA Staff Writer Washington -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said March 27 that he will support an Israeli request for a third anti-missile defense battery because of the growing problem of missile proliferation in the Middle East. In remarks at a Pentagon press briefing with Israeli Defense Chief Yitzhak Mordechai, Cohen called the request "mutually beneficial." The two defense chiefs met earlier to discuss regional and security concerns in the Middle East. Cohen noted that this was their fourth meeting and that he would be traveling to Israel in the next few weeks. "We are committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge," Cohen said about the United States' continued support for Israel's anti-missile defense program. Israel already has plans for the deployment of two other anti-missile batteries. The Arrow Program costs $1.8 billion annually, with the United States supplying funds and Israel supporting research. "Israel has determined, in light of the growing missile proliferation in the region, that it would need three batteries to protect much of its population," Cohen said. The question of Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon was also discussed during their meeting. "We stand solidly behind, of course, (UN) Security Council Resolution 425," Cohen said, which requires Israel to withdraw completely from southern Lebanon. Asked what Israel would do if it were attacked by SCUD missiles by a belligerent state in the region, Mordechai responded: "We hope that we would not be attacked by any state or any enemy." "We fully supported what the United States decided to do in the Gulf," Mordechai said, referring to the recent crisis with Iraq, and for bringing stability in the region. Commenting on Israel's recent proposals to leave southern Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Minister said "We are looking forward to change the situation in Lebanon." However, he said, "it means that the Lebanon government and army will (have to) take responsibility" for the security concerns Israel has before any withdrawal takes place. Mordechai asked for political support from the United States for its plan for withdrawal from Lebanon. "He is not seeking anything from the United States other than support for the initiative," Cohen said about the withdrawal plan offered by Israel for the United States and another country in the region to assist Lebanon in dealing with security and terrorism concerns on its northern borders.