WASHINGTON (May. 21)
The Reagan Administration announced Thursday that it is postponing the sale of some 60 F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia.
The notification of the sale to Congress, which was expected this week, will probably not come until sometime this summer. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the notification will go to Congress at the “most propitious time” to assure its approval. The sale will go through unless both Houses of Congress reject it.
Apparently the Administration did not consider the time propitious now in the wake of the refusal of two Saudi F-15 pilots to force down the Iraqi jet that attacked the U.S. missile frigate Stark in the Persian Gulf Sunday.
The Administration explained that the pilots did not have time to get permission from their ground control before the Iraqi plane returned to its base.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman said Wednesday that the Administration plans to go through with the sale, noting that there is no “prearranged plan” for the Saudis to aid American ships in the Gulf.
Secretary of State George Shultz, in response to a question at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday night, maintained the sale is in the U.S. interest because of the tension in the Gulf and the “stability” provided there by the Saudis having such advanced weapons.
The sale will not enlarge the number of F-15s held by the Saudis, but will replace, as needed, the 62 F-15s sold to the Saudis in 1978, according to the Administration.