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U.S. Remains Mum on Reported Plans to Equip Jordan’s Army

The Reagan Administration continued to maintain an official silence over the weekend on reports that the U.S. plans to equip two Jordanian army brigades to serve as part of a joint U.S.-Jordanian strike force to meet special emergencies in the Persian Gulf.

But White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes said last Friday that since both Jordan and the U.S. are interested in Mideast security “it should surprise no one that questions of regional security are regularly discussed.”

According to reports, the Administration has secretly proposed a $225 million appropriation for the two brigades and to provide the Jordanians with C-130 transport planes, medical evacuation transport and advanced infantry and river crossing equipment.

The plan, which has been in the works since 1979, has been discussed with key members of Congress and with the Israelis. The Administration apparently hopes to persuade Israel not to oppose the plan but the Israelis fear the force can be used against them.

Speakes said Friday he would neither “confirm or deny” the report. “Jordan is an important friend of the United States with which we have long-standing and well known military supply relationships,” Speakes said.

“It is in the interest of the United States to continue these relationships as both countries have an interest in regional security that is equally well known. It should surprise no one that questions of regional security are regularly discussed.”

Speakes’ statement was exactly the same as State Department spokesman John Hughes made last Thursday when the report became public. Strong Congressional opposition to the plan is expected, since there have been moves in Congress against any additional arms to Jordan in the wake of King Hussein’s refusal to join the Mideast peace negotiations.