Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 7, 1985, Page 8
Facts For Your Files: A Chronology of U.S.-Middle East Relations
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yassir Arafat accused the Reagan Administration of reneging on its promise to meet with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation as part of the recent Mideast peace initiative. Speaking from a Tunis suburb, Mr. Arafat said: "I am sorry to say that the American administration is retreating completely, although President Reagan gave this promise to King Hussein." When asked if the PLO was placing a new emphasis on military action in Israeli-occupied territories, Arafat replied: "You see our people are facing occupation, oppression ... so they have the right to use all methods to face this oppression."
A confidential Reagan administration report leaked to the New York Times stated that Saudi Arabia told the United States last year that it would permit American military forces to use its bases in time of Soviet aggression or a major flareup in the Persian Gulf region. The classified report, a 17-page summary of a longer State Department policy study on upcoming American Middle East arms sales, concluded that Israel was so powerful militarily that it would not be endangered by the Jordanian and Saudi arms packages that the Administration planned to put before Congress.
Israel released from Atlit prison near Haifa the last 119 of 1,100 Lebanese and Palestinians originally arrested in southern Lebanon as part of Operation Iron Fist and then transferred to Israel. The hijackers of TWA flight 847 in June had demanded the immediate release of the entire group. The Israeli Government continued to deny any connection between the release of prisoners from Atlit and the resolution of the TWA hostage crisis.
A 20-member delegation from the American Jewish Congress on a "fact-finding mission" to the Middle East met with Jordanian and Egyptian officials to assess the current status of the recent Mideast peace initiative. Members of the delegation said Arab officials urged that the United States "put to the test" the Palestine Liberation Organization's willingness to issue a public declaration of Israel's right to exist after a meeting between a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir denounced the American Jewish Congress as a "peanut-sized organization" that served "as instruments in the hands of the Arabs to score points against us." Shamir also criticized Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, for meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Moscow to discuss the status of Soviet Jews. Neither group, according to Shamir, had the competence to meddle in matters best left to the Israeli Government.
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani told energy officials meeting at Oxford University that Saudi Arabia will raise its production by at least one million barrels per day beginning in October. Mr. Yamani warned that "if non-OPEC producers do not cooperate with OPEC in stabilizing the market and we in the organization do not discipline ourselves, then I expect there will be a price war." The remarks came two weeks before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was scheduled to meet in Vienna. OPEC members adjourned their last meeting on July 25 without reaching a consensus on Saudi-supported price reductions.
President Reagan announced that the Reverend Benjamin Weir, one of seven Americans still held hostage in Lebanon, had been released September 14 after more than 16 months of captivity. White House Spokesman Edward Dierejian said news of the Rev. Weir's return to the U.S. had been suppressed out of fear that publicity might jeopardize negotiations for the release of the other six hostages.
The Reverend Benjamin Weir, in a televised Washington, D.C. press conference, confirmed that the six Americans still being held captive in Lebanon were hostages for the release of 17 Iraqis and Lebanese convicted of carrying out terrorist bombings in Kuwait in which a number of persons were killed and wounded. He said he had seen and talked with four of the six on the day of his release, but knew nothing about the health or whereabouts of the other two. At his press conference he called for a reexamination by the American people of whether U.S. Middle Eastern policies were based upon real U.S. interests there.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Reagan in Washington to discuss ways of reviving the stalemated Mideast peace initiative. At one point in the 60-minute session, Mubarak urged the president to find a way to "stimulate the process and to get things moving." Reagan responded by reaffirming the willingness of the U.S. to participate in peace negotiations, and to meet with the Palestine Liberation Organization once it publicly declared Israel's right to exist. Mubarak replied that the PLO had implicitly agreed to such terms, but Reagan once again stated his Administration's desire to include explicit recognition of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 in any PLO declaration. Though the two leaders appeared to end the meeting at a stalemate, a senior American official described the situation as "not bleak."
Saudi Arabia initialed an agreement to purchase 132 British-made combat jets and trainers in a $4.5 billion arms package the British Minister of Defense called "the largest export negotiations this country has ever concluded." The decision came after a prolonged Saudi effort to purchase 40 F-15 fighter planes from the United States was frustrated by Congressional opposition.