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ISRAELIS SAY U.S. TEAM FOUND NO PROOF OF PATRIOT-DATA LEAK

A U.S. delegation visiting Israel to inspect American-supplied Patriot air defense missiles has completed its investigation, and Israeli officials said it found no evidence that Israel transferred Patriot technology to China. There was no comment from the American delegation.

The 15-member delegation, headed by a State Department official, spent five days here studying Israel's two Patriot batteries in an effort to clear up the most sensational of a series of recent charges about alleged Israeli misuse of U.S. weapons components and technology. Israel radio reported Saturday night that the team's work had been completed and that most of its members had left the country.The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir strongly denied U.S. intelligence reports that Israel had given China one of its Patriots or passed along secrets of the system, which the United States supplied to Israel during the Persian Gulf war as a defense against Iraqi Scud missiles. After the allegation was reported by U.S. media, Israeli officials publicly welcomed the inspection team, and officials have insisted since the American experts began work here that they uncovered no wrongdoing.

Israeli officials say they are pressing the Bush administration to make the results of the investigation public and have even suggested privately that the United States apologize to Israel if the intelligence report is shown to be unfounded. So far, U.S. officials have refused to comment on the results of the investigation, and the State Department has indicated that some parts of the report may be kept secret.

The Patriot affair has caused a furor here because Israeli officials suspect that the leak of the allegation as well as others concerning weapons transfers are designed to weaken Israel's defense ties to the United States and raise the stakes in a continuing political confrontation between the Bush administration and Shamir's government. Israeli spokesmen accused Washington of conducting a "smear campaign" to "slander" Israel through leaks of allegations about the Patriot to U.S. media.