State Dept. Defends Saudi Arms Deal As in ‘national Interest’

The Reagan Administration said today that the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other weapons to Saudi Arabia are in “the national interests” of the United States and expressed confidence that once Congress sees the “total package” it will not reject the sale.

“We understand the concerns that have been expressed by the Senators and Congressmen,” David Passage, a State Department spokesman, said shortly after calls were issued on Capitol Hill for the Administration not to send its arms package to Congress lest it suffer a foreign policy defeat.

“The Administration views the sale of the AWACS as being important to U.S. national interests,” Passage said. “We are confident that when we present the full package to Congress it will be better understood and we will be able to meet the concerns expressed by the Senators and Congressmen. We would hope the Congressmen and Senators would reserve their positions on the sale until such time as we are able to discuss the entire package,” he said.

But Passage would not give any details of the package which he said is still being worked out between governments and with the leaders of Congress. Nor would he give any indication of when the proposed sale would be formally submitted to Congress.

Passage said that the arms were being sold to Saudi Arabia because the U.S. has an “important relationship” with that country. He said the Israeli raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor June 7 had no connection with any decisions being made on the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. (See earlier story on Page 1.)

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