Washington (Jul. 8)
There is a growing belief in Washington that the Reagan Administration will submit to Congress by the end of this week its proposal to send AWACS reconnaissance planes and other arms to Saudi Arabia.
But State Department spokesman Dean Fischer denied today that such a decision has been made. “We are still consulting with members of Congress” on the “precise timing” for submitting the proposal, he said.
Fischer seemed definite that nothing would be done either today or tomorrow on the arms package. But when he was asked whether the Administration would submit the proposal Friday or Saturday, he replied, “I don’t rule it in or rule it out.”
The Administration had planned to submit the proposal last May but accepted the advice of Senate Majority leader Howard Baker (R. Tenn.) to delay the proposal because of opposition in Congress to the sale of five AWACS, enhancement equipment for the 62 F-15s the Saudis bought in 1978, and other arms.
A further delay was urged late last month by Senate Republican leaders after a majority in the Senate and House indicated they would oppose the sale. The Administration has said it is working with Congressional leaders on the proposal in order to overcome objections voiced by members of Congress.
50 WORKING DAYS DEADLINE
The sale automatically goes through unless a majority of both Houses rejects it within 50 working days. This includes a 20-day informal consultation period followed by 30 days of official notification.
It is believed that the Administration hopes to get the consultation period completed before Congress takes its summer holiday in August. This would mean that the 30-day period in which Congressional committees would hold hearings and the issue publicly debated, will take place after Labor Day in September.
If the Administration makes the announcement on the AWACS, it is also expected to announce that Israel will continue to receive F-16s as scheduled. The Administration has been maintaining that it will complete its review of whether Israel violated the arms agreement with the U.S. by using American made planes in destroying Iraq’s nuclear plant before July 17, the date when six more F-16s are scheduled to be shipped. The Administration suspended shipment of four F-16s in June after the U.S. condemned Israel for the Iraqi raid.
HABIB LEAVES FOR MIDEAST
Meanwhile, the State Department said that special envoy Philip Habib left last night for Europe enroute to the Mideast where he will continue efforts to ease the tension over the situation in Lebanon.