Murphy Finds Himself Defending Saudi Arabia’s Criticism of the U.S. Air Strike Against Libya

Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy found himself Tuesday defending Saudi Arabia’s criticism of the United States air raid against Libya. But Murphy, who heads the State Department’s Near Eastern and South Asian Bureau, said he did not “excuse” the Saudi position.

His remarks came as he was questioned by Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Cal.) about the Saudi position as he testified before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East in support of the Reagan Administration’s proposal to sell Saudi Arabia $354 million in sophisticated missiles.

The Saudi statement after the U.S. raid expressed support and sympathy for the Libyan people, Murphy noted. “You do not find words of support for Col. (Muammar) Qaddafi or the Libyan government,” he added. Murphy said the Saudis are members of the Arab League’s joint defense treaty. “They have said probably the minimum they could say as being a member of the joint Arab defense treaty,” he said.

But Lantos rejected this argument. “If in every single incident we ourselves rationalize the anti-American attitude and actions and public statements of countries that we are supporting there will be no incentive for them to line up (with us),” he said.

Murphy noted that “I don’t think that we have reason to be satisfied with the support we have gotten around the world” on U.S. action against Libya. “We’ve had very direct talks with our friends and allies around the world about the lack of support for us,” he said.

RESOLUTIONS TO PROHIBIT THE ARMS SALE

Meanwhile, Rep. Mel Levine (D. Cal.) said he has 221 co-sponsors to the resolution he introduced to prohibit the arms sale. A similar resolution in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Cal.) has been signed by 63 senators.

Both Houses of Congress must pass the resolution by May 8 to prevent the sale from going through. But Murphy on Tuesday reiterated that if Congress does adopt a resolution of disapproval President Reagan will veto it.

The threat of the veto was not mentioned in a letter Rep. Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.), the subcommittee’s chairman, released during. Tuesday’s hearing from Secretary of State George Shultz.

Stressing the necessity for a “balanced policy in the Middle East.” Shultz said “efforts to block all arms sales to moderate Arab states, simply because they have not been perceived as totally supportive of our efforts in the peace process, can make that balanced policy impossible and the attainment of peace all the more difficult.”

“This is neither in our interest, nor, I would submit, that of Israel,” he continued. “Particularly at a time when Qaddafi and Khomeini are trying to radicalize the Arab and Muslim world, our moderate friends in the area need our support, not our rejection.”

The lack of Saudi support for the peace process has been one of the major objections of members of Congress to the Saudi sale, as it was to the sale of arms to Jordan, which was with drawn earlier this year. Whatever the outcome of the missile sale, the issue will come up again when the Administration will bring before Congress the certification for the delivery of the five AWACS sold in 1981. Murphy said this would occur in June or shortly afterwards.

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