Israel hopes U.S. will soon approve $10 bln in aid
Reuters, 12.17.02, 11:58 AM ET
TEL AVIV, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Israel said on Tuesday it hoped the United States would quickly approve a request for $10 billion in financial aid, including $4 billion in military assistance and loan guarantees of $6 billion.
Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, provided details of aid requested by Israel last month to help the country through an economic recession and to tackle its more than two-year-old conflict with the Palestinians.
"It (the request) has to go through a long approval process, including the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, but we hope the administration will expedite the request," Gissin said.
"President (George W.) Bush said during Prime Minister Sharon's last visit (to the United States) that the U.S. stands by Israel's economy and will give assistance due to the difficult situation in which we find ourselves."
Revenues have fallen and defence costs have risen during Israel's worst recession in 50 years. The economy has been battered by a global slowdown and by costs incurred tackling the Palestinian uprising for independence.
The $4 billion in military aid would enable Israel to prepare for the possibility of war in Iraq and help with costs associated with the Palestinian uprising, Gissin said.
U.S. backing should make it easier for Israel, which has never defaulted on its loans, to raise funds.
"The (loan) guarantees will enable us to get loans at reasonable interest rates and not cut-throat ones," Gissin said.
The money would be invested in infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and desalination plants, he said.
Israel receives $3 billion in annual aid from the United States. It received $10 billion of loan guarantees in the early 1990s as a wave of immigrants arrived from the former Soviet Union.