JERUSALEM - The United States has demanded a written apology from Israel and tighter restrictions on Israeli weapons exports as conditions for lifting military sanctions against its Mideast ally, an Israeli newspaper reported, deepening tensions over Israeli arms deals with China.
Israel and the Pentagon have been locked in talks over Israel's planned sale to China of spare parts for Harpy drone aircraft. The Bush administration objects on the grounds it would upgrade China's anti-radar aircraft.
A newspaper report said Wednesday that the latest tensions have forced Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to postpone a trip to Washington earlier
Security officials had at the time said the trip's delay was due to escalating Gaza Strip violence and a Palestinian suicide attack that killed five Israelis. But defense officials Wednesday confirmed the trip was called off because of continued disagreements with the U.S.
Mofaz had been widely expected to wrap up a memorandum of understanding with Washington over future Israeli arms sales. The document was expected to object to certain sales of strategic materials, but not to competition with U.S. industry.
The U.S. also reportedly wants the Knesset to approve legislation within 18 months tightening oversight of military exports, and a written apology from Israel and Mofaz as conditions for lifting sanctions. The sanctions have reportedly included halting cooperation on several projects and freezing delivery of sensitive equipment.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said it "continues with direct, discrete dialogue with the United States with the hope of completing the negotiations in the near future." An official said there are no immediate plans for Mofaz to go to the U.S.
U.S. Embassy officials did not respond to requests for comment.