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Administration Urged to Halt Sale of Missiles to Saudi Arabia

The Carter Administration was asked today by Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal (D.NY) to deny export licenses for the sale to Saudi Arabia of an additional 580 improved Hawk missiles and 1650 Maverick missiles. In a letter to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, made public by the Congressman’s office, Rosenthal pointed out “the potential result” of Saudi Arabia’s two on-going programs in weaponry “will significantly alter the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.”

In addition, Rosenthal wrote, Saudi Defense Minister Amir Abdul Aziz has denied that the U.S. and others supplying weapons to his country have determined the war materiel should not leave Saudi Arabia without the supplier’s approval.

Rosenthal referred to an interview in the Lebanese weekly Al Hawadat on Dec. 2 in which the Defense Minister is quoted as saying that the suppliers “did not impose such conditions and we did not accept such conditions.” Rosenthal wrote “This statement raises serious questions about the Saudis’ intention to abide by anti-transfer clauses in U.S. contracts.”

BASIS FOR OBJECTION

Rosenthal’s letter said that the first program, begun in 1974 and to be completed next year, calls for upgrading Saudi Arabia’s 600 basic Hawk missiles to improved Hawk missiles. “These missiles alone give Saudi Arabia an exceptionally formidable Hawk anti-aircraft missile system that is more than sufficient to meet its legitimate defense needs,” the Congressman said. He said he understands the Saudi desire to upgrade this force and does not intend to raise objections to it.

However, he said he is objecting to the second program calling for 580 additional improved Hawk missiles under a $1.14 billion order the Raytheon Co. announced it had received last June 1. The announcement, Rosenthal observed, came one day before the House approved the Arms Export Control Act and “indicates it was rushed to conclusion to avoid Congressional scrutiny.” He said that “at the very least.” this transaction should be required to come under Congressional review.

“I am fully aware of the Saudi role in the search for peace in the Middle East,” Rosenthal wrote Vance. “I am committed to continuing the friendly relations between our two countries, as well as to improving the U.S. position throughout the Arab world.” However. Rosenthal noted, canceling these sales “would be consistent with President Carter’s efforts to restrain the Persian Gulf and Middle East arms race, and, in view of recent cancellation of the sale of CBU-72 bombs (concussion bombs) to Israel, it could not be viewed by the Saudis as a one-sided action.”

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