Powell Says Carter Will Make No Decision on Egypt’s Arms Request Without Consideration by Congress

The White House said today that the subject of U.S. supply of weapons to Egypt arose “in general terms” at the final meeting today between President Carter and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt but that Carter reserved his decisions. Presidential Press Secretary Jody Powell told reporters at a news briefing that “no commitments or decisions were anticipated and they would not be made without appropriate consideration of Congress.”

Powell said that Carter declined to discuss “specifics” and that Sadat did not present any list of military requirements at his meetings with the President. It was understood, however, that Sadat’s reported request for 250 fighter planes, electronic equipment and missiles was submitted by him at his meeting with Defense Secretary Harold Brown. Sadat also indicated in interviews before he came to the U.S. that he wanted $5-$10 billion in U.S. economic credits.

But Powell stressed that “No attempt was made to arrive at a particular level of assistance,” either military or economic. He noted that “the U.S. is not the only source of assistance in these matters” and reminded reporters twice during the briefing of Carter’s review of U.S. arms sales abroad for the purpose of restraint and reduction of deliveries. He said the results of that review would have a “bearing” on Sadat’s request.

Powell was asked about Carter’s reference to a Palestinian “homeland” during a speech in Clinton, Mass. last month. He replied that the President “does believe in a homeland and has left the question of details open at this point to be discussed further.” The Press Secretary added that he was being “very super-cautious” in his briefing because of developments in the Middle East over the past 30 years.

He declined to say what impression Sadat left with Carter with respect to the former’s remarks about a Palestinian “entity” yesterday and his reference to a Palestinian “homeland” during his working dinner with Carter last night. Powell said he would not discuss Sadat’s words.

PALESTINIAN HOMELAND VIEW PRAISED

Sadat said, in response to the President’s remarks last night, “Your recent statement on the right of the Palestinians to a national homeland was welcomed by every Arab. It was regarded as a positive signal because it was the first time since 1947 that an American President has ever spelled out his conviction that the Palestinians should have their homeland where they could establish their state.” Some observers saw Sadat’s statement as a retreat from his recent remark that a Palestinian state should be linked with Jordan.

Powell disclosed that Carter will give “sympathetic study and consideration” to a U.S. hydrographic survey of the Gulf of Suez, essentially a mapping of underwater terrain to be made in view of oil drilling and increasing traffic in those waters. He said the project would take about six months at a cost of $7.5 million. The U.S. is involved in a dispute with Israel over the latter’s oil drilling in part of the gulf.

Powell also reported that Carter promised to encourage the inflow of U.S. private capital into Egypt and that a consulting group has been organized by the World Bank to “provide a demonstration of world-wide support for Egypt to strengthen its economy.” Powell said Carter and Sadat discussed prior and current developments in Lebanon and expressed concern over the situation in that country.

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