President Carter agreed yesterday to a brief delay in formally submitting to Congress the proposed sales of U.S. warplanes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
White House press secretary Jody Powell said the proposals would be sent to Capitol Hill "no later than the first of next week and perhaps as early as Friday."
The administration had promised to submit the sale proposals to Congress yesterday although some congressional leaders had urged a delay to permit additional discussions about the package.
Powell conceded he "could not say the odds are in favor" of the administration reaching an agreement with members of Congress that would avoid a tough congressional battle over the proposals.
Powell told reporters Carter believes "the real issue which the Congress must consider is whether it is in the best interests of the United States for us to maintain without deviation our historic commitment to the security of Israeli while at the same time developing closer ties with the moderate Arab nations and influences such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia."
The White House spokesman, predicting congressional approval of the sales, said Congress will be wrestling with the question of "what sort of Middle East we would like to see in the 1980s."
Carter agreed to delay the submission, Powell reported because of requests by congressional leaders and in order to permit further negotiations on a possible agreement aimed at allaying the concerns of members of Congress who fear Saudi Arabia might use American-made F15 fighters as offensive bombers.
"The president is very sympathetic to the desires of many in the Congress not to be faced with this difficult and divisive issue," Powell said.
The Senate and House have 30 days following Carter's submission of the sale proposals to approve or reject them.
Carter is proposing to sell Saudi Arabia 60 ultramodern F15 fighters; Egypt 50 older F5Es, and Israel 15 F15s and 75 F16s, all in one $4.8 million package. He has said he will kill the whole sale if Congress rejects any part of it.
The proposed plane sale was not the subjects of discussion during yesterday's talks between Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Israeli officials said. The sale may be discussed at today's meeting between the two officials.
Dayan said he and Vance discussed "a peace agreement with Egypt" for four hours yesterday but reached no conclusions.
"We have discussed a peace agreement with Egypt the peace process and what should or can be done about it," Dayan told reporters after the State Department meeting.
Asked what agreement he and Vance had reached, Dayan said, "if we had reached a conclusion, we wouldn't need another meeting tomorrow. We are in the middle of negotiations."
He said the peace negotiations were the only subject discussed in the meeting that ran almost exactly four hours. He and Vance were to meet again this morning.
Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, described the meeting as "useful."
Dayans visit was a prelude to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's arrival Monday on a ceremonial trip expected to include diplomatic talks with Carter.