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State Dept. Denies U.S. Plans to Sell 1,200 Tanks to Saudis

The State Department denied a published report today that the U.S. plans to sell Saudi Arabia 1,200 M-l Abrams tanks. The U.S. has only agreed to a Saudi Arabian request for a demonstration of the tanks, Department spokesman Alan Romberg maintained.

Romberg stressed that as “one aspect” of the long term U.S. effort to “assist the Saudis in enhancing their defense capabilities with a view to improving their own and regional security,” the U.S. has “agreed to provide a demonstration of the M-l tank and the M-2/M-3 APCs in Saudi Arabia this summer at Saudi expense. This demonstration is at Saudi Arabia’s request following a similar demonstration in the U.S. last year,” Romberg said.

He said the story which appeared in The New York Times today “contains many inaccuracies.” He confirmed that there are a number of Saudis in training at Fort Knox, Ky. on the M-l “in connection with this demonstration.” The Times’ story said a crew of 18 Saudi tank soldiers began training at Fort Knox in the Abrams tank two weeks ago.

NO REQUEST FROM SAUDI ARABIA

“We have no formal request for the M-l tank from Saudi Arabia,” Romberg stressed. He said that if such a request was forthcoming from the Saudis, “this will be considered in accordance with established procedure, including consultation with Congress.”

Romberg added that the U.S. also has “no plans for stockpiling M-ls in Saudi Arabia, nor have we ever discussed this matter with the Saudi government. This assertion is unwarranted speculation.”

The Times’ story claimed that Saudi Arabia will begin getting about 400 tanks in 1985, with some of them for possible use by the U.S. There have been reports that the U.S. plans to sell large numbers of the Abrams tanks to Saudi Arabia ever since it was first revealed that a demonstration was held for the Saudis last summer.

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