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U.S. Speeding Delivery of Arms Sold to Saudis and Other Arab Countries

Israel and its supporters appear to be unruffled by the fact that the United States is speeding delivery of previously approved arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

They are much more concerned about future sales, as well as the ultimate fate of U.S. weaponry being sent in droves to Saudi Arabia. They wonder how much of the materiel will remain behind after U.S. troops return home.

Last week, President Bush waived a congressionally imposed ceiling of 60 U.S.-made F-15 fighter planes Saudi Arabia could have at any one time. The United States has since sent 12 additional F-15s to Saudi Arabia with U.S. forces.

State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Wednesday that she was unaware of any administration discussions on future arms sales to Saudi Arabia as a reward for allowing U.S. troops to land there.

But Tutwiler said that as “part of our response to the current Gulf crisis,” the administration will “review requests from our friends for additional arms sales on a case-by-case basis, consulting fully with Congress.”

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams also spoke of a greater willingness to consider such sales worldwide.

The Saudis have shown a strong interest in replacing the kingdom’s aging U.S.-made airplanes with more F-15s, which are made by the St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Co.

But the Saudis have yet to receive 12 F-15s they already purchased, which are to be delivered in 1991 or 1992, said Lee Whitney, a McDonnell Douglas spokesman.

DELIVERY OF TOW MISSILES EXPEDITED

The administration has yet to say if delivery of the 12 will be expedited. Should they be delivered earlier, that would effectively nullify the congressional ceiling, since the Saudis would not retire any of the 60 F-15s they already have.

In any event, Congress will have to reconsider the ceiling on F-15s by 1991 or 1992.

One clear Saudi windfall so far is that the United States now intends to deliver later this year many of the 2,000 TOW anti-tank missiles and 1,117 light armored vehicles contained in a $4 billion sale to the Saudis that sailed through Congress in early July.

Previously, their delivery was not expected until 1992 or 1993, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration recently told Congress that it wants to sell 46 F-16 fighter planes to Egypt, made by General Dynamics Corp., also of St. Louis.

Tutwiler said Wednesday that informal notification to Congress of the Egyptian sale, which took place July 24, was “totally unrelated to the current crisis” in the Persian Gulf.

The sale was listed in the president’s annual “Javits Report” to Congress detailing its expected proposed arms sales for 1990.

Tutwiler had no comment on a Washington Post report Wednesday that the multibillion dollar sale would also include dozens of Maverick air-to-ground missiles and cluster bombs.

Tutwiler also said the United States is not considering selling Stinger missiles to Oman or the United Arab Emirates. The two Persian Gulf nations were cited in the Post story.

But the spokeswoman had no information on new sales to Morocco and Turkey, two other nations mentioned in the Post story. The Post said that Morocco would like to buy some F-16s, but does not have the cash to purchase them.

U.S. COULD MAKE GESTURE TO SYRIA

President Bush has indicated that the United States will find ways to help those countries that are boycotting Iraqi goods or that are sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

Syria, along with Bangladesh and Pakistan, are the latest countries to send military forces to Saudi Arabia. Syria could stand to benefit by having the United States revoke economic sanctions in place since 1986.

The sanctions include barring Syria from receiving Export-Import Bank loans and Commodity Credit Corporation credits.

The sanctions came after a British court implicated Syria in the attempted bombing of an El Al Airlines plane in London that had more than 230 U.S. citizens aboard.

Syria has also been branded by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, a status it has held since 1979, when the label originated.

A State Department official said he did not believe Syria had asked for a lifting of the sanctions as a quid pro quo for helping the Saudis. The Syrians “are not that crass,” he said.

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