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State Dept. Says Administration Not Selling Arms to Saudis — Yet

The State Department said Thursday that the Bush administration has not yet made any decision to sell Saudi Arabia 315 M1A1 Abrams tanks, seven multiple-launch rocket systems, and up to 110 F-16 or F/A-18 fighter planes this year.

Those weapons, as well as 2,000 Mk-84 aerial bombs, 75 anti-jam radios, an air defense radar system, and maintenance equipment for F-5 and F-15 fighter planes, were contained in the administration’s 1989 “Javits Report,” named for the late Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.). The report lists potential arms sales for this year.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman said Thursday that the report — sent by the Reagan administration to Congress Jan. 19, its last full day in office — was endorsed by the Bush administration, but he could not comment on it since it was classified.

But Redman specifically denied that any sale of advanced aircraft to the Saudis would occur in 1989. “We do not have plans this year nor do we anticipate notifying Congress of any such sale this year,” Redman said of the F-16s or F/A-18s.

The New York Times Friday quoted Saudi and U.S. sources as saying the aircraft sale may be proposed early in 1990.

Israel could receive 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, four reconnaissance helicopters, three artillery-locating radars, as well as avionics, armament, engine and airframe improvements on 47 of its F-15 aircraft, The Times and The Washington Post reported.

Various potential weapons sales to Egypt and Morocco are also cited in the report.

A Capitol Hill source predicted that the Saudis will want the F/A-18s over the F-16s, but that, in any event, the weaponry is geared mainly for defensive uses.

The aircraft would likely replace aging F-5s, which was one of the purposes in the U.S. sale of F/A-18s to Kuwait last year.

A second source had no immediate analysis of how the 2,000 bombs would affect Israel’s security, but noted that fighter planes can become offensive weapons in wartime.

The missile launchers have a 30-kilometer range, which could not reach Israel from Saudi Arabia, although he said they would help upset the Arab-Israeli military balance, as would a sale of F-16s or F/A-18s.

Potential sales to three Persian Gulf Arab states are also named in the report, specifically Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, The Times said.

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