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Ronald Reagan Administration: Exchange With Reporters on the Sale of AWACS

(October 15, 1981)

Q. Sir, it looks like you may have lost in the Committee, 9 - 8.

The President. Yes, that's what I was just going to speak to you about. Frankly, I'm gratified that it was that close. I, of course, would have wished that it would have been the other way. If one of them had a headache and had to go home early or something, it might have. But to be that close -- and I still am going to continue believing that we can get it in the Senate vote on the floor.

And Lesley, [Lesley Stahl, CBS News], in your earlier question here, I think I left the wrong impression. I was conscious that the press, the media had talked of the possibility of another way of doing this, and that's what I was really commenting on, that we hadn't had any meetings, conferences on it. And we haven't. So I don't know what any possibility there would be on anything of that kind or whether we would consider it or not.

We're going to continue believing that we can get the vote, that the Senate is going to see that this is not only essential -- as three former Presidents have been saying for the last few days -- to the United States, it's essential to the security of Israel.

We have totally protected the technology; there's no risk to that, and certainly no risk to Israel. And I just have to believe that there will be enough Senators that will recognize the importance to us of having the relationship that this can lead to, where we can continue the peace-making process.

Q. By not ruling out that waiver, sir, don't you leave the inference that if you win in the Senate, fine, but if you don't win, then you'll take it up?

The President. No, this is what I was trying to correct, because we hadn't even considered this. And it's a hypothetical question as it is. And I was commenting because when you asked, I thought, well, this was in connection with the stories that have appeared in the press.

Q. But you will not rule it out completely either, right?

The President. Well, it's a hypothetical question, and I'm not going to -- I can't even answer that yet, because I don't know whether I would or not.

Q. Secretary Haig said once a few days ago that he thought you'd do what needed to be done under any circumstances, and it led everyone to believe that you'd use it if you had to.

The President. Well, it's something, as I say, it's hypothetical at the moment because I haven't even -- there hasn't been any discussion with me on it.

Q. Did Senator Zorinsky ever call you back?

The President. No. Maybe they called the vote too soon.

Note: The exchange began at 4:25 p.m. at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, as the President was preparing to deport Philadelphia for the trip to New Jersey.

The discussion concerned the vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the waiver provision of section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act and section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act.

Sources: Public Papers of the President