Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Henry Kissinger called it "an intimate little dinner," the kind he never misses, and he rushed right down from New York to become one of the more than 200 in either black tie or abayah basking in the royal glow Wednesday night.
For Walter Page, president of Morgan Guaranty Trust, it was pure and simple "money - the Saudis have quite a bit of it," he said. And for Texaco's chairman of the board, Maurice Granville, it was, not surprisingly, oil - that other commodity his hosts have in plentiful supply.
It was the dinner for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud given by Ambassador and Mrs. Ali A. Alireza, and the royal visitor's drawing power proved to be so irresistible that last-minute acceptances by some guests threw the seating arrangements into chaos and delayed the start of dinner.
"They were too important to be neglected," said Mrs. Alireza, "but I wouldn't dare tell you who they are."
The guest list provided the tipoff. While it gave the names of nine foreign envoys, that of Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin was not among them. He and his wife, however, were very much in evidence, arriving on the heels of most of the other guest.
Not that it really mattered since everybody seemed to be somebody, including Vice President Walter Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, former Secretaries of State Kissinger and William Rogers, a variety of State Department brass and a healthy contingent from Capitol Hill representing Senate Foreign Relations, Finance and Energy and National Resources Committees and the House International Relations Committee.
"It's a real laundry list," wryly noted Kansas Republican Sen. Robert Dole.
The heavy hitters from U.S. industry and finance were sprinkled among the Saudis and their American equivalents in government at round tables for 10 in what seems to be fast becoming for Middle East potentates their palace on the Potomac - the ornate Anderson House on Massachusetts Avenue's Embassy Row.
The crowd arrived at 8 o'clock, for the most part promptly, to be met with fruit juice, punch, or ginger ale in keeping with the law of the Koran.
Kissinger said he always drinks only punch - "I'm trying to be first in R-rated TV" - and he pulled out his tuxedo jacket as if to prove he was but a shadow of his former self.
Prince Fahd's assurances to President Carter earlier in the day that no oil embargo was being contemplated, left Illinois Sen. Charles Percy (R.), among several in the Hill contingent, cautiously optimistic.
"Their fate, in a sense, is tied up with ours," said Percy, who had been with the Saudis too, during the day. "They were very cautious, though in no was inflammatory when I asked if it were possible to set up a Palestinian homeland that would not be terroristic or aggressive. That, too, would be difficult for the Arab world, of course."
Abdarrahman Mansuri, the Saudi's Secretary of State of Political Affairs, said that "it is not our policy to use oil as a weapon and we never had the idea of an embargo unless, of course, we are concerned." He did not elaborate nor would he discuss the new Israeli prime minister. "That's not our business, that's the Israelis'. But if they are more stubborn," he said of the still-to-be-formed Israeli government, "it's a burden for the United States which is trying to effect a peace. Peace, you know, doesn't just stand on one foot."
If the Saudis displayed an abstemious streak where liquor was concerned they were the Brillat-Savarins of the Middle East when it came to arranging Wednesday night's haute cuisine. Food professionals estimated it cost between $50 and $75 per person, but pointed out that an additional $2,000 probably was saved by omitting liquor though doubted the saving was significant to the Arabs.
Catered by Ridgewell's, the fare featured salmon for hors d'oeuvres flown in the previous day from Scotland, 300 fast-moving lobsters for thermidors (as opposed to "slow movers," which were returned on the next flight) from Maine and fresh beef (for filet de beef Rossini with truffles and plate) flown in from Iowa.
At 2 a.m. Wednesday, six chiefs began their culinary ministrations on the four-course meal, the last course being a dessert double-header of blue cheese almandine with fruit and frozen torte.
Nineteen hours later, the chefs' efforts found 50 waiters carrying the first of 140 heated platters to the 23 round tables. Two waiters were assigned to each table, which is standard, but the Prince's table got an extra pair, both of whom were detailed to watch out for his every gastronomic need.
Newer faces among the crowd included Carter's nominee as the next U. S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, former South Carolina Gov. John West. He sat in on all the discussions between the President and the Crown Prince, he said, and "it was quite obvious that they struck a mutal confidence and respect."
Under attack in some quarters for his lack of diplomatic experience, West said that "It's true I do not have any experience in foreign service as such, but I have a great interest in international relations." And he proceeded to describe what he calls the "reverse investment program" he oversaw as governor, a program that encouraged foreign investment in South Carolina.
Besides Kissinger, the other man about the world, Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the Saudi's shuttling Minister of Petroleum, shuttled through the crowd. He was one of the 28 traveling in the Prince's retinue, which also included an older brother, several nephews and nearly a dozen cabinet officers, many of whom are graduates of American universities.
"People ask me if I come here to get educated so I can go home and use what I learn against them, and I tell them I could go any place in the world and get an education." Nawaf Mohammed Al-Saud, a student at California's Chapman College and grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud told Walter Page, whose bank once held Saud's millions.
Seated opposite was Texaco's Granville who, like Page, sees little to be gained in the new antiboycott legislation.
A terrible mistake," said Granville, "far more important to settle the Arab-Israel problem and this will make it more difficult."