Reagan Administration Officially Announces Sale to Saudis of 400 Anti-aircraft Missiles and 200 Laun

The Reagan Administration officially announced today that it has sold Saudi Arabia 400 Stinger anti-aircraft missiless and 200 launchers for the shoulder-fired weapon to used to protect Saudi oilfields and the shipping of Persian Gulf oil.

The announcement, made by the State Department came after the weapons had been delivered to Saudi Arabia and after the sale had been widely reported over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said the weapons were being sold by President Reag## under the special authority he has in the Arms Expo## Control Act to waive the normal 30-day waiting period after Congress is notified. Reagan’s use of this emergency power is the reason why the number missiles was dropped from 1,200 and 400 launchers.

Romberg stressed today that the Saudis have “le?imate” needs for the full number. “In recent days, neutral shipping has been attacked with increasing frequency and in an ever widening area in the international waters in the Gulf,” Romberg said, reading a prepared statement. “Further escalation could threaten Saudi Arabia and oil supplies on which mu## of the free world depends. ” Although Iraq is believed responsible for most of the attacks on shipping i## recent days, the Administration’s effort is aimed at Iran.

CITES CONTRIBUTION TO SAUDI DEFENSES

Romberg stressed that since the Stinger “can be deployed in the field shortly after delivery, its immediate transfer will quickly contribute to Saudi Arabian air defenses. By providing a deterrent again hostile actions, this transfer lowers the risk of a br{SPAN}##er{/SPAN} conflict. The President’s determination reflects United States grave concern with the growing escap{SPAN}##lation in the Gulf and its implication for the secur of our friends. “{/SPAN}Romberg said that the Saudis would use the Stingers to defend against air attacks on Saudi oilfields or ships carrying oil. But he could not say “precisely” how the Saudis would deploy the weapons. Presumably, if they are to protect shipping they would have to be placed directly on the ships since the Stingers only have a range of three miles.

Romberg also stressed that “Saudi Arabia has agreed to strict safeguards to insure the security of the missiles and will pay the full cost for the system and of its transportation.” Security has been a issue because the strong Congressional opposition to selling the missiles to Saudi Arabia or to Jordan has centered on a fear that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.

This will probably be discussed when Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens meets with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the Pentagon tomorrow. Romberg had no direct comment today on a report that Israel had said that the Stingers would be in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization within six months. But he said despite some charges, the Saudis have never turned over American-supplied weapons to a third party.

SAUDIS ALSO GETTING OTHER MILITARY SUPPLIES

Romberg also announced that in light of the unstable situation in the Gulf, the U.S. is starting to send to the Saudis three months ahead of schedule some of the 120 conformal fuel tanks that Saudi Arabia ordered in 1981 for the F-15 fighters.

Romberg said the U.S. is also expediting delivery of ammunition and spare parts for other Saudi weapons. He made clear that the Saudis are not getting bomb racks for the F-15s which the U.S. turned down when it sold the Saudis AWACS in 1981.

In addition, Romberg said the U.S. is sending a KC-10 Extender aerial refueling tanker to Saudi Arabia to augment the three U.S. KC-135 refueling tankers already there. The tankers, entirely staffed by American personnel, would refuel the U.S. AWACS that have been in Saudi Arabia since the Iran-Iraq war broke out in 1980, and Saudi F-15s.

Romberg said the U.S. would not be in a combat role and that the tankers would not become a target. “They are not equipped for combat,” he said. The U.S. is to begin delivery of KC-3 tankers in 1986.

NEXT STORY