At the UJA Young Leadership Conference: Two Leading Senators Warn Reagan Against Selling Missiles to
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At the UJA Young Leadership Conference: Two Leading Senators Warn Reagan Against Selling Missiles to

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Two leading Senators, both of them expected to seek their party’s nomination for the Presidency in 1988, warned President Reagan Sunday night against an expected proposal to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia.

The warning by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R. Kan.) and Sen. Gary Hart (D. Colo.) was made before the nearly 3,000 persons attending the United Jewish Appeal’s Fifth National Young Leadership Conference at a dinner at the Washington Sheraton. The Administration is expected to submit to Congress this week a proposal to sell the Saudis $300 million in missiles, including the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the shoulder-held Stinger anti-aircraft missile, and the Harpoon anti-ship missile.


At the outset of the dinner, Peter Alter, conference chairman, noted that neither President Reagan nor Vice President George Bush had accepted an invitation to appear at the conference. But he said they would receive a “message” from the conference that the sale of arms to the Saudis “is not in the best interests of peace.”

Dole revealed that he had advised the White House over the weekend to move slowly on the sale. “Until there is some indication that some of the moderate Arab states are willing to be helpful we have to go rather slow,” he said.

“I know the missiles will fly,” Dole added. “But I don’t know whether this new package will fly.”

Hart noted he and other Senators lost the fight in 1981 against the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia. “Today the Saudis are still closer to the PLO than they are to making peace with Israel,” he said.

Hart, who announced he plans to visit Israel at the end of the month, said he will not support a sale of missiles to the Saudis. He said his message to the President is, ‘forget it. It is not going to happen. It is not the way to peace. It is not the way to treat a friend”(Israel).

Dole said he believes “cooler heads” will prevail. “The best policy, when it comes to the Mideast and other parts of the world, is a bipartisan policy, not a Republican policy or a Democratic policy,” he said.


The majority leader pointed to the recent experience with the proposed arms sale to Jordan in which Republicans and Democrats worked together to delay the sale. It was later withdrawn by Reagan.

“It was our duty as Americans first to try to continue the negotiating process,” Dole said. “We gave it a chance and we haven’t given up yet.”

At the same time, Dole praised King Hussein of Jordan. “It’s not his fault that the peace process, at least temporarily, is derailed again by the PLO, which has only one thing in mind, the destruction of Israel.”

Dole stressed that support for Israel is “bipartisan, nonpartisan.” He said there is a consensus that “Israel must be militarily secure and economically healthy.”

Hart praised Dole for his successful effort as majority leader in bringing about Senate ratification of the Genocide Convention after 37 years of the treaty being blocked.

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