WASHINGTON (May. 30)
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens maintained today that Saudi Arabia already has a “very effective” defense system and does not need the 400 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles which President Reagan sent them last weekend.
Arens made this assertion in commenting to reporters after a 45-minute meeting with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the Pentagon. He noted that relations between the U.S. and Israel “have never been better than they are today.”
The two defense chiefs discussed issues on which the two countries agree and a few on which they disagree, including the Stinger sale, officially announced yesterday, according to Arens. “I didn’t ask for any guarantees” on the Stingers, Arens said.
He conceded that the “Saudis have a problem” in the Persian Gulf but said they have “a very effective system”with the F-15 fighters, which he called the “best aircraft in the world,” and the long-range Hawk surface-to-air missiles. The shoulder fired Stinger has a range of three miles and the State Department yesterday could not say how it would be deployed to protect Gulf shipping. The Israelis have expressed concern that the Saudis would use the weapons against them or turn the mobile missiles over to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In answering questions in Hebrew from Israeli radio and television reporters, Arens denied that his visit here is connected with the upcoming Knesset elections. He is scheduled to be guest of honor in the annual Salute to Israel Parade in New York City Sunday.