WASHINGTON (Sep. 28)
Congressional opposition to any sale of arms to Saudi Arabia has been stressed again in a letter to President Reagan signed by 62 Senators.
“A new, and we believe, unwarranted Saudi arms request would force an unnecessary and unproductive confrontation between the Congress and the White House,” the Senators warned in the letter which was hand-delivered to the White House Friday.
Sens. Alan Cranston (D. Calif) and Bob Packwood (R. Ore), who initiated the letter, said Monday they expected the Reagan Administration to formally notify Congress of the sale this week.
However, the Administration continued to deny Monday that any decision has yet been made. “We are continuing to discuss and consult with Congress on the matter and no decisions have been made,” Phyllis Oakley, a State Department spokesperson, said.
The letter, signed by 16 Republicans and 46 Democrats, is similar to one sent to Reagan two weeks ago by Cranston, Packwood and Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D. Ariz.), Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D. NJ).
Since 62 Senators have signed the latest letter the Administration is put on notice that there are enough votes to defeat any proposed arms sale. While it would then take 67 votes to override a Presidential veto, a spokesman for Cranston said the Senator has been assured by enough other Senators, who did not want to sign the letter, that they oppose the sale.
The focus is on the Senate because the House usually overwhelmingly rejects any arms sales to the Saudis. The decision over whether any sale will be approved or rejected is thus usually decided in the Senate.
Cranston and Packwood led the effort which caused the Administration to withdraw last June a proposal to sell 1,600 Maverick anti-tank missiles to the Saudis.
The Administration had been reported as planning a $1 billion arms sale to the Saudis which would include the missiles and the F-15E, the latest model of the jet fighter, as well as other equipment.
However, there was a report last week that in order to get Congressional approval the Administration would drop the Mavericks from the arms package and sell the Saudis 12 F-15C and F-15D jets instead of the more advanced F-15Es. These would be delivered to the Saudis as the current F-15s wear out or crash, maintaining the Saudi F-15 fleet at 60.
But Capitol Hill sources deny that any such proposal has yet been made.
The letter given the White House Friday noted the “previous” opposition to any arms sale to the Saudis. “We do not believe it wise to reward Saudi behavior, which has so frequently harmed U.S. national security interests, with another sale of sophisticated arms,” the letter said. “The Saudis have not made substantial efforts to achieve progress in the Middle East peace process, and they continue to fund terrorist organizations like the PLO.”