Washington (Jul. 9)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig denied today that a decision has been made when to send to Congress the Reagan Administration’s proposal to sell AWACS reconnaissance planes and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to reporters after testifying on his recent Asia trip at a closed session of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Haig also said “there is no decision” on whether to lift the suspension of delivery to Israel of four F-16 jet fighters, imposed after Israel’s June 7 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. He said he gave the same answer when asked by Committee members.
TIMING STILL UNDER DISCUSSION
Haig said he was asked about the AWACS proposal when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday but that it did not come up at the House Committee today. He said he had read the “speculations” in newspapers that the AWACS proposal would be submitted this week. He stressed that the Administration is still discussing the “timing” for submission of the proposal with leaders of Congress and that the decision “depends in large measure” on the advice the Congressional leaders will give.
The Administration has delayed submitting the proposal on the advice of Senate Republican leaders who believe there are enough votes in both the Senate and the House to reject the sale.
Haig rejected a reporter’s assertion that the U.S. was “negotiating” with the Saudis on the AWACS. He said the Administration was discussing with the Saudis and others the “modalities” of the proposal. The Administration is believed to be seeking a means of continuing American control over the five AWACS to be sold to Saudi Arabia as a way of reassuring Senators and Congressmen who fear that AWACS controlled by the Saudis would endanger Israel and open the possibility that those highly sophisticated aircraft will fall into Soviet hands.
Asked if Premier Menachem Begin’s almost assured return to office will create any difficulties for the Reagan Administration, Haig stressed that the U.S. continues its “traditional…intimate” relationship with all Israeli leaders. This is based on the “special obligations” the U.S. has toward Israel, he said.