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Israel signed up for Galileo yesterday

Israel agreed on Wednesday to take part in the new multibillion-dollar satellite navigation system being developed by the European Union, the European Commission said. Galileo, which will be a European version of the already existing U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), will become operational in 2008.

“This lays the basis for Israel’s active participation in the (Galileo) program,” the Commission said in a statement after an agreement was initialed in Jerusalem. The EU in February reached a landmark agreement with the United States on radio frequencies to enable Galileo to work alongside GPS, dispelling severe reservations in the Defense Department and NATO. Galileo’s planned system of 27 satellites has a range of potential uses from guiding cars and ships or landing military aircraft to precision positioning in engineering projects.

Neither European Commission nor Israeli officials could immediately give a figure for how much Israel would invest in the project. Sources on both sides have suggested it would be tens of millions of euros, although one said Israel might contribute a maximum of $100 million. China has put up 230 million euros ($283.7 million) and India, which is negotiating to join, has spoken of 300 million euros. ($1=.8106 Euro)