Washington (Oct. 22)
The fate of the Reagan Administration’s proposed $8.5 billion sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia appeared today to depend on whether President Reagan returns from Cancun, Mexico with an agreement by the Saudis for joint U.S.-Saudi crewing of the AWACS. Reagan was scheduled to lunch today with Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia in Cancun where both are attending the North-South economic summit conference.
But Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.), the Senate Deputy Minority Leader and a leader of the opposition to the AWACS sale, said on the Senate floor today that even if Reagan returns with such an agreement, the opposition is now so solid against the sale that he believes it will be rejected. He attributed the strengthened opposition to the announcement by Sen. Robert Byrd (D. W. Va.), the Minority Leader, yesterday that he will be vote against the AWACS sale.
However, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R. Tenn.) said today that he still believes Reagan can win when the Senate votes next Wednesday. He said he has 40 votes in favor of the arms package deal and rejected claims by its opponents that they have the 51-plus votes to defeat it.
JEWISH SENATOR SUPPORTS AWACS SALE
Meanwhile, two Senators announced opposite positions on the sale. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D. SC) said he would oppose it, principally out of fear for the security of the high technology weapons being offered Saudi Arabia.
But support for the sale was expressed by Sen. Warren Rudman (R. NH), the only one of the six Jews in the Senate to support it. The other five, three Democrats and two Republicans, are opposed to the sale. One of them, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) is a leader of the opposition.
In a speech on the Senate floor today, Rudman denied that the sale would endanger Israel. “I for one am willing to trust in Israel’s strength and understanding in order to take a step which may have more far reaching consequences than the simple physical placement of five radar planes within a single country’s boundaries,” he said.