Reagan Administration Will No Longer Bar Syria, South Yemen from Buying U.S. Civilian Aircraft

The Reagan Administration announced today that it will no longer bar Syria and South Yemen from buying civilian aircraft from the U.S. even though the two countries are still on the list of four nations the U.S. considers to be supporters of international terrorism.

However, any sale must include assurances that the planes will not be used for military purposes, State Department spokesman Dean Fischer said. The sale would apply only to aircraft to be used on “scheduled civil airlines” in the two countries, Fischer added. He acknowledged that the civilian airlines in both countries are owned by their respective governments. At the same time, he stressed that there are no pending applications from either country to purchase such planes in the U.S.

“This determination, while it eliminates controls over such sales based on terrorism criteria, in no way alters existing controls on such sales based on (U.S.) national security criteria,” Fischer said, reading a prepared statement. The State Department, only this week, announced that Syria and South Yemen, along with Libya are still on the list of countries that aid terrorism. Iraq, however, was removed from the list and replaced by Cuba.

REQUEST WOULD BE REVIEWED

The 1979 Export Administration Act requires that the Departments of Commerce and State issue a list of countries annually which support terrorism and therefore cannot be sold certain material and equipment. The statement read by Fischer today stressed that if either Syria or South Yemen asked to buy civil aircraft here, the request “would continue to be reviewed carefully in the light of national security criteria and, if found to be contrary to our national security, would be denied.”

One element that would be considered would be assurances that the planes not be used for military purposes, the statement said. Fischer said that Syria and South Yemen have never diverted planes used for their scheduled air service for military purposes while Libya has “repeatedly disregarded” such assurances.

The statement stressed that the decision announced today “does not constitute either a softening of the Administration’s fight against terrorism or a gesture toward Syria and South Yemen. Our concern with the support of these two countries for international terrorism continues unabated.” The statement added that the decision “simply reflects” the Administration’s view that “there is no link between international terrorism and the sale of civil aircraft to legitimate civil-end users.”

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