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U.S. Denies Giving Saudis the Ok to Transfer Weapons to Iraq, Syria

April 21, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The State Department has labeled as “false” reports that the Reagan administration secretly allowed Saudi Arabia to provide U.S.-made bombs to Iraq.

The department also denied charges that it allowed the Saudis to transfer U.S.-made weapons to Syria and Bangladesh at the end of the Persian Gulf War.

Both charges were made in a Los Angeles Times story last Friday, which said the report was based on classified documents and unidentified sources.

When asked about the allegations Saturday, President Bush told reporters during a “power walk” on the beach in Kennebunkport, Maine: “No, no.”

On Monday, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, confirmed that the United States “did receive reports that Saudi Arabia may have transferred to Iraq some U.S.-origin equipment along with large quantities of non-U.S.-origin equipment in 1986.”

But when questioned about this, the Saudis replied that the transfer was “inadvertent,” Boucher said.

He said the same reply was given by the Saudis when the United States learned that Syria and Bangladesh had taken with them some “non-lethal” equipment that had been supplied to them by the Saudis during the Persian Gulf War.

Boucher said that in all three cases, there was “prompt notification to Congress,” as required by the Arms Export Control Act. He said the Saudis were reminded in 1986 and again after the Gulf war that they are not allowed to transfer U.S.-made arms without Washington’s permission.


The Saudi arms transfers were revealed several weeks after the State Department’s inspector general accused Israel of “unauthorized transfer” of “U.S. items and technology” to other countries.

Supporters of Israel have pointed out how Israel was pilloried in the press for weeks, compared to the low profile given the story about the Saudis.

The Israeli Embassy here had no comment on the Los Angeles Times report.

Meanwhile, Boucher also rejected a charge by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Bush denied Israel’s request for U.S. loan guarantees because he had already promised Arab countries not to provide the backing until Israel stopped building settlements in the West Bank.

“There was some kind of promise. The Arabs say so,” Shamir told The Jerusalem Post in an interview published last Friday. He said there was “no doubt about it, no doubt about it.”

In denying Shamir’s charge, Boucher stressed that the United States “discussed loan guarantees in good faith” with Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval.

He said the United States offered a proposal that would have provided Israel guarantees for more than $10 billion in loans over six years.

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