Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. told Saudi Crown Prince Fahd today that the Reagan administration expects to win the battle in Congress over the sale of airborne warning and control system (AWACS) planes to Saudi Arabia.
The prince, in turn, reportedly offered "no expressions of disapproval" when briefed by Haig on the overall U.S. approach to military security in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, an approach that relies on an expanding U.S. military relationship with Israel.
Haig and Fahd met privately for three hours in Spain at the prince's heavily guarded hillside villa near Marbella overlooking the Mediterranean. The account of their talk was provided to reporters later by Haig's spokeman, Dean Fischer.
After the meeting with Fahd, Haig flew here to the capital of Yugoslavia to begin the Reagan administration's first top-level visit to a European communist country and to reaffirm American support for Yugoslavia, which for more than 30 years has practiced a brand of communism independent of the Soviet Union. Sunday he is scheduled to fly to West Germany for talks in Bonn and West Berlin.
The meeting with Fahd took place less then 24 hours after Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin ended an official visit in Washington and the United States and Israel announced agreement on a variety of new measures of formal military cooperation.
Asked if these events had created any negative aspects in the talk with Fahd, Fischer said they had not and that the talks "went very well." He said that the conversation relating specifically to Israel came within the broader context of the overall American approach to strategic issues in the Middle East and that "there was no expression of disapproval" by Fahd to this approach.
But Fischer acknowledged under questioning that Haig had done most of the talking during the meeting and luncheon, and so it appeared possible that the crown prince, who is the key figure in Saudi foreign policy, was merely reserving his judgment or being polite.
Fischer said Haig summarized administration progress in its policy of enhancing regional stability and that Fahd "expressed support for U.S. efforts in this regard and pledged the continuation of complementary Saudi Arabian efforts," presumably meaning military improvments.
Senior U.S. officials have made clear that the Reagan administration is pressing for an overall strategic approach in the Middle East directed against external threats to the region from the Soviet Union, or what the White House calls Soviet "proxies" or "Soviet-inspired terrorism." Thus, Washington is seeking to pull together Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states in this loose anti-Soviet strategic union, although the Saudis frequently point out publicly that they regard Israel as more of a threat than Moscow.
Senior officials traveling with Haig have also cautioned against exaggerating or "overinflating" the new agreements with Israel, because Washington has always had a close military relationship with the Jewish state.
Aside from briefing Fahd on the Begin visit to Washington, Haig also discussed the earlier visit to the United States of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Haig also elaborated on the administration's approach to the resumption of the Palestinian autonomy talks between Egypt and Israel and its strategy for sustaining and expanding the cease-fire in Lebanon, Fischer reported.
Haig thanked the Saudis for their contribution to the Lebanese cease-fire, and Fahd reportedly reaffirmed his country's commitment to continuing these efforts and reiterated the importance of "restraint by all parties" in the fighting there. U.S. officials said special Middle East envoy Philip Habib will soon return to the region for further discussions on Lebanon.
Haig was greeted at the airport here by Yugoslav Foreign Secretary Josip Vrhovec. At a dinner in his honor, Haig said: "The Reagan administration, like its predecessors, will continue the traditional American policy of strong support for Yugoslavia's independence, territorial integrity and national unity. We believe that an independent, truly nonaligned Yugoslavia is a positive factor in ensuring both European security and world peace. Our position with regard to Yugoslavia is clear."
Haig also met with Yugoslav President Sergej Kraigher and visited the tomb of Josip Broz Tito, the legendary leader who died in May 1980.