WASHINGTON (Oct. 30)
A high level U.S. government mission will visit Saudi Arabia early in Nov. to discuss understandings between the two countries on a multi-billion dollar arms deal to modernize Saudi Arabia’s military establishment.
The State Department disclosed yesterday that Robert Ellsworth, head of the Defense Department’s office of international security affairs, and George Vest, chief of the State Department’s bureau of political-military affairs. will confer with Saudi officials on aspects of the Pentagon’s “survey” of Saudi Arabia’s military programs.
According to State. Department spokesman John King, the Pentagon has made a “survey” of Saudi Arabia’s “technical needs as our experts see them.” A recent report by James McCartney, Washington correspondent for the Detroit Free Press, said that the U.S. survey calls for “total re-building” of the Saudi Arabian armed forces that would include a mobile striking force with some 440 helicopters, F-4 Phantoms and a major expansion of the navy.
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McCartney wrote that two documents–dated Sept. 13 and Sept. 16–attested to the program. The Sept. 16 document is an “action memorandum,” he wrote, from Vest and Alfred Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs, to Joseph Sisco, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, This memo, according to McCartney, said that Secretary of State Henry A Kissinger approved last March 8 the “idea” of a Pentagon survey and “master plans” for Saudi Arabia’s development over the next five or ten years.
Under questioning by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the McCartney article, King said he was “not quarreling” with the Sept. 16 document but said he had pot seen it when he was asked to acknowledge that the document exists. King said that Saudi Arabia has not yet made decisions on the arms program and pointed out military relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had existed for 30 years.
Sisco told a Congressional committee in June. 1973 that the Saudian 8 needed armaments for defense against Communist elements on its borders. Conjecture now, however, Is that while Arabi might still indeed want equipment for that purpose, it is also interested in establishing a strong fighting force to enter possible future warfare against Israel or acquire weapons for transfer to Egypt in another Israel-Arab conflict.