Senate Blocks Sale of Missiles to Kuwait, Sabotaging Arms Deal

In an effort to block the Reagan administration’s proposed $1.9 billion arms sale of F/A-18 fighter planes and missiles to Kuwait, the Senate voted Thursday to bar the administration from following through on one component of that package, the sale of 300 Maverick “G” air-to-ground missiles.

The measure, attached to the 1989 Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill and co-sponsored by Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), is retroactive to July 6 and would be in effect until Sept. 30, 1989, the end of the 1989 fiscal year.

The House version of the foreign aid bill, which was approved May 25, does not contain a similar provision, so a House-Senate conference committee will have to negotiate on whether to retain the ban.

Reacting to the move, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said, “This action overlooks the consequences of this ban, which denies the sale of F-18 aircraft, because the plane will not be effective without the missile.”

Oakley added that it creates confusion about U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf.

Rep. Larry Smith (D-Fla.), who plans to introduce a resolution in the House of Representatives July 13 to block the entire sale, circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter Thursday asking for co-sponsors.

As of Friday afternoon, it had been signed by 82 lawmakers, including Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), the House majority whip.

A Capitol Hill source said the Mavericks are the most objectionable component of the $1.9 billion package, because the Maverick “G” missiles are more advanced than the 1,600 Maverick “D” missiles that the administration proposed to sell to Saudi Arabia in 1987.

That proposal was withdrawn because of widespread congressional opposition.

Bahrain, another Persian Gulf state, has received about $14 million worth of Maverick “D” missiles. That deal went through without opposition, since all military sales of $14 million or less do not require the consent of Congress.

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