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Ronald Reagan Administration: Press Conference on Questions About AWACS

(October 24, 1981)

Q. Mr. President, do you foresee any problems -- when you were gone, a number of Senators have expressed the way they will vote on AWACS. And do you see any further problems for you in that area? Are you still expected to win?

The President. Well, I repeat my cautious, but optimistic, statement, but say that's what I am back to get busy with again, and see if we can't continue to get some of those who are undecided to realize that the greatest security for the United States and the greatest security for Israel rests with the sale of the AWACS to Saudi Arabia. And those Senators who refuse to see this, I'm afraid are not doing their country a service.

Q. Were there any futher discussions with Prince Fahd while you were there? Did you discuss AWACS at all?

The President. Never mentioned it.

Q. Is there any possibility that you will withdraw the sale from the Senate?

The President. No.

Q. In what ways are the Senators not doing their country a service?

The President. Because I don't think they're being realistic about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, the threat of the Soviet Union there, and the need for the United States and our allies to make their presence felt in that area.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. We discussed that, discussed Egypt, and what we view as Egypt's progress now. And all in all, it was a very optimistic discussion.

Q. Do you think that Saudi Arabia has gone as far as it can go in terms of assurances and guarantees, and do you think they are sufficient enough to convince the 18 Senators you are going to meet next week?

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], they certainly should be, because I can say that with all my heart, we have guaranteed the security of the technology and the security of Israel.

Q. Mr. President, do you still leave open the option -- or do you leave open the option of bypassing the Senate if they do not go along with the sale?

The President. Well, that's something that I refuse to even think about or discuss while we are still talking to Senators who are honestly uncommitted and undecided and waiting to make up their minds.

Sources: Public Papers of the President