The United States is prepared to begin new joint military security planning with moderate Arab nations in the Middle East, White House officials said yesterday.
Presidential counselor Edwin Meese III, speaking on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA), said the Reagan administration is "willing to entertain joint military planning, military contingency plans, and other things, so we can strengthen the resolve of the nations in that area, as well as to be prepared if it should be necessary to take action in the future."
A senior administration official said the president will be conferring this week with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on the nature of the new planning effort. Both officials were in Cairo for the funeral of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and talked with Sadat's designated successor, Hosni Mubarak.
"I think there are a number of things we can do," Meese said. But he added, in answer to a question, that he did not think it advisable to be "drawing lines in the sand and in effect daring Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to do something."
Both Meese and national security adviser Richard V. Allen, who appeared on "Face the Nation" (CBS,WDVM), continued to express optimism about the proposed sale of sophisticated AWACS radar planes to Saudi Arabia, predicting that the administration will be able to convert enough senators to avoid an embarrassing congressional veto.
Meese also said the administration does not intend to use an "escape clause" by declaring that there is an overriding national security interest that requires the sale of the planes. Such a declaration would bypass any congressional vote, but would be certain to trigger a wave of protest on Capitol Hill.
Warning that Qaddafi "radiates instability in the region," Allen also said that Haig is "examining ways" in which Washington can speed up delivery of "$200 million in the pipeline for the Sudan."
Later, a senior administration official, elaborating on this, said Allen was referring to military aid that already has been approved but not yet sent.