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Israel suspends contract to upgrade Venezuelan F-16s

October 21, 2005 (by Anonymous) - Israel has frozen a lucrative contract with Venezuela Air Force to upgrade its F-16s under American pressure, according to the Israeli public radio.
Unnamed officials said that Israel had frozen the 100-million-dollar contract in a bid to avoid irritating Washington further following the crisis sparked by an arms contract between Israel and China.

The officials quoted by Israeli public radio said Israel was going to build its own systems in the U.S.-made F-16 fighters for the Venezuelan air force. They suggested that Washington had quashed the contract with Venezuela on protectionist grounds, as the suspension could lead Caracas to cancel the contract altogether.

Israel's ties with the US took a major hit from the quarrel over a controversial weapons deal under which Israel was to upgrade a consignment of drones it had sold to China.

Washington imposed a series of sanctions on Israel's defence industry over the deal to upgrade Harpy Killer drones, amid concerns that advanced US defence technology contained in Israeli equipment could be used against Taiwan.

The Israeli government had been particularly keen to resolve the dispute with Washington at a time when it was seeking US support for its historic pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Also, in an interview with the BBC radio aired yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he had evidence to prove the U.S. government was planning an invasion.

Chavez said he believed the reason Washington was plotting an invasion was to take control of Venezuela's oil fields.

The U.S. government repeated that it is not planning any such thing.