Saudi Arabia has told the United States that the idea of sending an international naval task force into the Persian Gulf to assure the flow of oil is a "overreaction" that would not help ease tensions there stemming from the war between Iran and Iraq.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal said his government had conveyed its concern to President Carter about the reported U.S. plan and Saudi opposition to it.
He said the administration had given Saudi Arabia a "positive response" and that it agreed the countries in the gulf region had a special responsibility for keeping the peace.
"Overreactions to threats that have not come about is, of course, a danger that has to be avoided," the prince said. "Undoubtedly, one of the things one should not think about is a sense that this is a conflict in the region that is so sensitive that we must safeguard our interests and go and intervene militarily and safeguard shipments from there to open the gulf."
Asked if he had in mind specifically the American idea of a multinational naval force, Saud replied, "I think that is an overreaction."
The prince was interviewed in New York, where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly session.
Saudi Arabia is the United States' leading supplier of foreign oil, providing about a quarter of U.S. imports. The administration is known to be concerned about the possibility of the Iranian-Iraqi war spilling over into neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia or possibly affecting the flow of oil through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
The prince seemed anxious to reassure the United States that neither concern was justified. He said he had "no anxiety" about the war spreading, adding, "I see no particular threat to Saudi Arabia as such."
He said his country's relations with neighboring Iraq had improved "immensely" recently and were now "extremely good." He indicated that Saudi efforts to establish even normal relations with the new revolutionary government in Iran had been totally frustrated.
Saud said Saudi Arabia recognized that the United States has a "particular responsibility in safeguarding the peace in the world," but had asked it in the present gulf war "to ease tensions."
"It's worse to bring more arms" into the region, he commented. It was primarily the responsibility of the gulf nations to safeguard forces because this will undoubtedly complicate the situation," he said.
On the related issue of the American Rapid Deployment Force now being established partly to protect the West's oil lanes through the gulf, the prince said Saudi Arabia could understand in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that the United States felt the need to meet the challenge with an increased military capability.
But he said his government did not agree with the underlying logic that because the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the United States had to react by creating a force to protect the gulf. "It is this sort of logic that in the final analysis leads to a division of the whole world" into American and Soviet spheres of influence, he said.
The prince also explained Saudi views on a number of other issues:
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had made no decision at its meeting two weeks ago to cut back on oil production by 10 percent and thus there was no substance to reports that it had agreed to forego this cutback because Iran and Iraq were no longer exporting oil. Saudi Arabia itself had made no decision whether to cut back.
Saudi Arabia is buying more arms from France, but press reports of a $3.5 billion deal for naval equipment and $1 billion Saudi investment in a new Mirage jet now being designed were "not really indicative of either the [true] size or the kind of equipment."
Saudi Arabia had a longstanding agreement with Pakistan for training its armed forces but reports that it had agreed to provide that nation with $1 billion in financial assistance in return for the stationing of an entire division in the country were "not true."