U.S. Denies Reports That It Plans a $1 Billion Arms Sale to Saudis

The State Department denied reports Monday that it has decided to plan a S1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia early next month.

“There have been no new developments and there is no current active consideration of this issue,” said State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley. “There in no hidden agenda, there will be no surprises on this issue. As we proceed l can assure you that the Administration will consult fully with the Congress.”

But Oakley said the Administration has already stated that it will resubmit an arms sales to Saudi Arabia “when it considers it appropriate.”

Oakley was responding to a question about a Washington Post article which stated that the Administration, in light of recent developments in the Persian Gulf, is planning to submit the Saudi arms package to Congress when it convenes Sept. 9. The article said the Administration will argue that a strong Saudi Arabia could be an effective deterrent to the Iranians in the region.

The $1 billion arms package reportedly would include the 1,600 Maverick anti-tank missiles whose sale was withdrawn in June in face of a Congressional override. The sale would also include 12 to 15 F-15 fighter planes valued at $500 million and improvements to weapons already in the Saudi arsenal.

Sources have said there is nothing new in the Administration intention to resubmit the arms sale. But they said they expect the White House to inform Congress before the sale is officially resubmitted. Legislators complained in June that they were not given advance warning about the Maverick missile sale.

Congressional opposition to the $360 million Maverick sale increased after Saudi Arabia failed to come to the assistance of the U.S. missile frigate Stark attacked last in May by an Iraqi jet in the Persian Gulf. The anger grew when the Saudis balked at assisting the II Kuwaiti ships to be flagged as American in the Gulf.

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