Congressional Action Against Proposed Missile Sale to Saudi Arabia Encounters Series of Delays
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Congressional Action Against Proposed Missile Sale to Saudi Arabia Encounters Series of Delays

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Congressional action against the proposed sale of 650 TV-guided “Maverick” missiles to Saudi Arabia encountered a series of delays over the weekend, at least some of them thought to be the result of stalling tactics inspired by the Ford Administration which supports the sale. There are only four days left before Congress adjourns for its election recess. Unless both houses vote to shelve the missile deal, the sale will be consummated.

On Friday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 8-6 in favor of a motion by Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D.Wis.) to bar the sale of the Mavericks. But Sen. John Sparkman (D.Ala.), committee chairman, who voted against the Nelson motion, acted without notice to have it referred back to committee. He obtained unanimous consent for this from a handful of Senators present shortly after Vice-President Nelson A. Rockefeller had telephoned to tell him that the Administration was “greatly disturbed” by the motion.

Sen. Clifford Case (R.NJ), an opponent of the missile sale, demanded unanimous consent on the Senate floor to reverse the recommittal on grounds he had not been informed of it in advance. Case was supported by Sens. Sparkman, Jacob K. Javits (R.NY) and Robert Griffin (R.Mich.). But Sen. James Abourezk (D.SD) refused and consideration was put off until tomorrow.


The flurry of activity at the Capitol was preceded Friday by what was described here by some as a phony report by the Middle East News Agency that Saudi Arabia had threatened a new oil embargo against the United States if the missile sales were killed and if the anti-boycott measures pending before Congress and in the Oval Office become law. According to the report, which gained wide attention over the weekend in the American media, that warning was conveyed to U.S. officials by the Saudian Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Ibo Faisal, who is attending the UN General Assembly.

But State Department officials promptly scotched the report. Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton told the House international Relations Committee that while the Congressional actions would give a negative signal to the Saudis, he had checked with the Saudis and learned that they had not threatened to use the oil weapon in retaliation for either the anti-boycott measures or rejection of the missile sales. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed at the State Department that the Saudi government itself had “confirmed” that the news agency report was incorrect.

Consideration of the missiles deal by the House International Relations Committee was postponed because the committee lacked a quorum to act on a companion measure to the motion in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Congressional sources said that committee members favoring the sale had found ways of being absent.

Senate sources believe, however, that the Foreign Relations Committee would re-adopt the Nelson motion by the same vote. Supporters of the motion, in addition to Case were Sens. Hubert H. Humphrey (D. Minn.); Claiborne Pell (D. RI); James Pierson (R.Kans.); Charles Percy (R.Ill); Joseph Biden (D.Del.); Frank Church (D.Idaho) and Gale McGee (D.Wyo.).

Opposed were Sparkman, Javits. Griffin and Sens. Hugh Scott (R.Pa.); Dick Clark (D.Iowa); and George McGovern (D.SD). Sen. Stuart Symington (D.Mo.) was absent and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D.Mont.) is abroad.

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