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Arms for Saudi Arabia

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The State Department has disclosed that it has “recommended” that President Carter ask Congressional approval for the U.S. sale of $1.2 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia to equip four more battalions of its national guard.

The disclosure last Thursday came a week after Saudi Arabia announced it was increasing its daily oil production for an unspecified period to help offset shortages in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. Ever since first reports of Saudi activities in oil production and pricing within OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) discussions indicated less gouging than by such countries as Libya and Iraq, reports of deals indicated linking Saudi actions and statements with an understanding from Washington that the U.S. would pressure Israel on withdrawal from the West Bank and deal with the Palestinians.

Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.), in a comment on the Saudi petroleum increase, said he “wondered out loud” whether there were “conditions” connected with the increase in output.

State Department spokesman Hodding Carter, in confirming reports of the latest arms deal, denied any linkage between the increased output and the new arms sale. “The arms sales to Saudi Arabia are conducted without any deals or links to Saudi Arabian oil,” he said. Carter emphasized that the sale is in the “context” of Saudi Arabia’s “security” and “the stability” of the Middle East.

The spokesman was asked whether the timing of the sales presentation to Congress, which must approve it, was affected by the improved international climate flowing from Saudi Arabia’s oil and pricing position. “Out relations with Saudi Arabia are excellent,” he replied.

Carter also said that the sale is “not in any way offered” in terms of Mideast politics, when he was pressed to respond to reports that Saudi Arabia had extracted a U.S. pledge favoring increased support of the widespread campaign against Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

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