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Bush Asks Sharon Not to Respond to an Iraqi Attack, say Israeli Papers - 2002-10-06

Israeli newspapers say that when President Bush meets Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington later this month, he will address Israeli concerns about possible military action against Iraq.

Mr. Sharon and Mr. Bush are scheduled to meet at the White House on October 16 to discuss America's plans for possible military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Israeli media report that one of the aims of the meeting will be to allay Israel's concerns about the possibility of Saddam Hussein launching an attack against the Jewish State in the event of an American strike against Iraq.

The Hebrew daily Ma'ariv says Mr. Bush wants to reassure Mr. Sharon that the United States has Israel's interests in mind, and there is no need to be drawn into the conflict. The newspaper says Mr. Bush is expected to tell Mr. Sharon that, from the first day of any American military action, the U.S. forces will focus on the western part of Iraq to prevent the positioning of mobile missile launchers or Iraqi jets flying out to bomb Israel.

In exchange, Ma'ariv says, Mr. Bush will insist that Israel pledge not to retaliate, even if an Iraqi missile succeeds in hitting Israeli territory, for fear this could spark a wider regional conflict.

Mr. Bush also reportedly wants assurances from Mr. Sharon that he will not escalate the conflict with the Palestinians or against the Hezbollah guerrilla fighters in southern Lebanon.

Another Hebrew newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, says that, in order to encourage compliance with the U.S. plan, Mr. Bush intends to give Israel 72 hours notice of any initial American attack and put American satellites capable of identifying missiles launched from Iraq at Israel's disposal. In addition, the United States reportedly will provide Israel with more Patriot missiles to target any incoming Iraq missiles.