WASHINGTON (Oct. 21)
Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia is ending a four-day visit to Washington Wednesday without giving any public indication that the Saudis are now willing to be helpful in the Middle East peace process.
A State Department official, who was briefing reporters on the visit Tuesday, said the Reagan administration stressed its commitment to the peace process in the meetings with Abdallah, but refused to give any indication of the crown prince’s response. Abdallah, who was last in Washington in 1982, was here at the invitation of Vice President George Bush. In addition to a working meeting with Bush, he met with President Reagan, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, State Department officials and congressional leaders.
The official noted that Abdallah was in Washington at a time when the “Saudi-American relations are particularly close, particularly cooperative” as a result of Saudi Arabia’s support of the United States effort in the Persian Gulf.
Maintaining that he could not reveal all the Saudis are doing to help the United States in the Gulf, the official said, “I hope the day will come when these good deeds will be widely recognized.”
It is this Saudi support that apparently convinced a majority of the Senate and House to drop opposition to a proposed $1 billion arms sale once Maverick anti-tank missiles were removed from the package. The compromise agreement between Senate opponents and the administration was reached despite a widely held feeling in Congress that the Saudis have not done anything to help bring about negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
A BILLION-DOLLAR PACKAGE
The official said the Saudis “understood” they could not get everything they wanted in the arms package. “But who gets everything they want at the bottom of the Christmas tree?” he said. “They have asked for a billion-dollars-plus arms package and they have gotten a billion-dollar arms package.”
He said the Saudis see the proposed arms package as “a good effort by the administration,” particulary as it is expected to go through without a major fight in Congress. The compromise package without the Mavericks was reached as the administration realized the proposed sale would face almost certain rejection in Congress.
However, the official also indicated that the Saudis expect to get the Mavericks eventually, as Reagan promised, as well as other arms. But he stressed that “no son of the arms package” is presently being contemplated.
Congressional critics have charged the administration has been using “salami” tactics, proposing one arms deal and when that’s approved offering the next proposal from a Saudi wish list.