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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 21:56 GMT


World: Middle East

Israeli spy issue resurfaces

President Clinton promised an early decision in the case

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has once more in raised in his talks with President Clinton the issue of Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy jailed for life in the US in 1985.

Middle East
Mr Pollard, an American-born Jew, spied for Israel when he was an employee at the US defence department, passing thousands of documents to Israeli agents.


[ image: Jonathan Pollard: In virtual solitary confinement for the past 13 years]
Jonathan Pollard: In virtual solitary confinement for the past 13 years
At the Wye River talks in October President Clinton refused to authorise his release, which almost blocked the agreement.

President Clinton - speaking today at a joint press conference with Mr Netanyahu - promised an early decision on whether Mr Pollard's sentence can be reduced.

"My counsel, (Charles) Ruff, has invited the Justice Department and all... the interested parties to say what they think about the Pollard case, to do so by sometime in January," Mr Clinton said.

"I will review all that plus whatever arguments are presented to me on the other side for the reduction of the sentence, and I will make a decision in a prompt way," he said.

Top secret information passed

Mr Pollard, now aged 44, was a US Navy employee with access to top secret material at the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US defence department, who used his position to pass large amounts of information to Israeli agents.

Much of what Pollard disclosed to Israeli intelligence is still classified material, but US sources say he handed over highly sensitive information.

When Pollard was first arrested, the Israeli Government denied all knowledge of him.

However, supporters both in Israel and the United States have incessantly lobbied for his release.

A year ago, Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship and the government of Israel pledged itself to try to obtain his release.

The sentence Pollard is serving - he has been in virtual solitary confinement for 13 years - is the harshest ever passed in the case of espionage for a country America regards as friendly.

But correspondents say there are powerful lobbies in the United States which do not want to see him let out. The director of the CIA, George Trenet, is reported to have threatened to resign if Pollard were released.





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