By Amiram Cohen
Senior United States officials are pressing Israeli ministers to convince the Israel Electric Corporation to choose gas turbines produced by General Electric (NYSE:GE), instead of turbines made by the German firm Siemens, say top sources at the National Infrastructures Ministry.
At stake is the purchase of two turbines costing about $330 million. The turbines are expected to operate at the IEC's stations in Elyakim and Gezer.
Ministry officials say that in their recent meeting, Secretary of State Colin Powell asked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to try to assure that the IEC chooses the General Electric turbines. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has also brought up the subject in conversations with Sharon.
GE and Siemens both reached the semi-final stage of an international tender held two years ago. IEC has yet to choose the winner.
Sources at IEC say that the General Electric proposal is $30 million to $35 million more expensive than the Siemens proposal. But General Electric has more turbines operating around the world and has thus accrued more experience has in operating and maintaining them.
Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed yesterday that pressure has been put on the government over the turbines.
"Heavy pressure has been and is being applied over the gas turbines from the highest levels of the American government. If something like that happened here, an investigation would already have been launched," Lieberman said. "We should understand that this is how things work everywhere."