U.S. to Sell Military Arms to North Yemen While Stalling on Arms Aid to Israel

Robert Funseth, State Department spokesman, confirmed today that the United States is “prepared to sell appropriate military equipment and some training in them to the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) within the framework of our analysis of the need.” He said this would include only defensive weapons and will come only after a U.S. survey team visits North Yemen to assess its needs. No airplanes will be sold, he said.

Funseth’s remarks came after it was reported from Sanaa, North Yemen’s capital, that President Ibrahim el Hamdi said his country will end its 20-year dependence on Soviet arms if a proposed arms deal with the United States goes through. North Yemen is reportedly seeking $50 million to $100 million worth of arms including at least one squadron of F-5 fighters as well as tanks and artillery, Funseth said the U, S, has “encouraged Yemen to work through Saudi Arabia and other regional Arab states to assist in its military modernization program.” He said no letter of offer has been sent to Congress as yet.

North Yemen has an army of about 10,000 men and has an estimated 30 Soviet T-34 medium tanks and a squadron of 12 MIG-17 jet fighters in addition to other weapons.

The disclosure of the U, S, willingness to sell weapons to North Yemen, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea, comes at a time of continuing U.S. refusal to enter into agreements for the sale of new weapons to Israel. Sales of F-15 fighters and “Lance” missiles to Israel were suspended last March 26 for the duration of a reassessment of U.S. Middle East policy. Funseth said today he did not know when the reassessment would end.

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