Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. yesterday reaffirmed the Reagan administration's intention to go ahead with the sale of five sophisticated radar planes to Saudi Arabia, but he conceded that there will be further delays in submitting the proposal to Congress.
The administration's tentative plan had been to notify Congress within the next few days of its intent to proceed with the sale. Last week, a majority of Congress went on record as opposed to the sale, which can be blocked if both houses voted against it.
Haig, interviewed on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM), conceded that, in order to neutralize the continuing strong opposition in Congress, more negotiation is required to work out arrangements with the Saudis giving the United States some control over the use of the Airborn Warning and Command System (AWACS) planes. Haig was not specific about the timing, but he said the delay will not be "substantial."
"We are in the process now of developing the arrangements under which the sale will be made," Haig said. "It's very important that these arrangements be known and understood by those who have reservations about that sale."
In discussing other aspects of foreign policy, Haig continued his toughline approach to dealing with the Soviet Union and European communism. He said the Soviets cannot be allowed a veto over U.S. relations with China, including the possible sale of American weapons to the Chinese, and he reiterated that U.S.-Soviet relations must be based on "restraint and reciprocity" in terms of Moscow's conduct. He also repeated American criticism of French President Francois Mitterrand's naming of four Communists to his cabinet.
On the China question, Haig, who returned last week from talks in Peking, said he hoped Moscow would not consider the arms sale agreement "provacative."
"I think it is very important that Americans recognize that our relationships with China must stand on their own," he added. "If we allow that socalled 'China card' to become the dominant factor in our relationships with a billion Chinese people, why, we will have in effect given the Soviets a veto over those relationships."
He denied that President Reagan's policy of trying to hold the Soviets to an internationally acceptable "code of conduct" may doom hopes for renewed negotiations on a strategic arms limitation treaty and other disarmament initiatives.
Haig noted that he and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko plan to meet in September to discuss negotiations on limiting intermediate-range missiles based in Europe, and said, "Beyond that, we're dealing with a whole host of internal reviews associated with strategic arms limitations."
He said the president hopes these reviews will lead to "the actual reduction of the growth of strategic armaments" and added, "I would expect that these discussions will take place sometime next year. . . ." But, while that momentarily gave the impression that a concrete timetable is taking shape for renewed SALT talks, Haig immediately qualified his comment by adding ". . . without any firm deadlines being set one way or the other."
In respect to the tensions created last week by U.S. criticism of Mitterrand's cabinet decisions, Haig said: "We make no excuses or no bones about our concern. It's simply a fact of life that communist regimes, whether they are closely affiliated with Moscow or not, pursue policies which are not consistent with those of the Western family of nations."
His use of the term "communist regimes" appeared to be an inadvertent error. From the context of his statement, Haig obviously was referring to the French Communist Party, from which Mitterrand recruited the four ministers, and not to the Mitterrand government, which is Socialist.