WASHINGTON (Sep. 5)
The Reagan Administration maintained today that while the U.S. has no agreement with Saudi Arabia allowing the U.S. to use Saudi military bases in case of a military emergency, the “long-standing relationships” between the two countries has resulted in such requests being honored.
But State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb, in making the statement, could give no example of when the Saudis had agreed to such a request in order to aid a U.S. mission rather than just a Saudi need. Kalb also indicated that the Administration was close to announcing new arms sales for Saudi Arabia and Jordan. But here, too, he would not be specific.
The Administration’s statement came after a report in The New York Times today that Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, has given members of Congress a memorandum which states that the Saudis will allow the U.S. to use its bases in case of “aggression” by the Soviet Union or if Saudi Arabia was unable to handle a situation in the Persian Gulf.
The memorandum was a 17-page summary of the Administration’s recently completed study of arms sales to the Middle East.
Kalb refused to comment directly on the newspaper story. But he said “Saudi Arabia has no agreement with the U.S. on the use of Saudi military facilities. However, we have long-standing relationships based on mutual interest in the stability of the region. When U.S. assistance has been requested and provided in response to specific threats, the facilities necessary to support such assistance have been made available.”
AN EXAMPLE IS OFFERED
As an example, Kalb gave the stationing of four U.S. AWACS electronic surveillance aircraft in Saudi Arabia after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. These were to provide warning of any attack on Saudi Arabia. But when pressed to give an example of a request being approved on purely U.S. interests, he could not.
Asked about arms sales to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Kalb noted that all weapons sales to the Middle East have been held up pending the just completed study on which members of Congress are now being briefed on a classified basis. “I would therefore expect a number of programs which have been on hold to go forward shortly,” he said. But he would not give either specific nations or numbers.
Saudi Arabia has been seeking to buy 40 F-15 jet fighters and Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Jordan wants to buy F-16 fighters as well as anti-aircraft missiles.
The Administration has held up the announcement of a sale to either country for more than a year because of strong opposition in the House and Senate where a majority in both chambers are against the sale of any weapons to Arab countries until Jordan agrees to direct negotiations with Israel.