President Reagan will meet King Hussein of Jordan next week for talks that administration officials hope will result in Jordan turning to the United States, rather than the Soviet Union, for a new infusion of air defense weapons that could include surface-to-air missiles and jet fighter planes.
Officials on both sides have insisted that Hussein's visit, beginning Monday, is intended primarily for the two leaders to become acquainted and that the aim is "not to discuss hardware in the Oval Office."
However, the administration, believing that this week's Senate approval of Reagan's $8.5 billion aircraft sale to Saudi Arabia has built up a new store of good will among moderate Arab leaders, also hopes to capitalize on this momentum and seek to dissuade Hussein from pursuing negotiations for missiles that the Soviets have offered him.
Sources familiar with recently concluded arms talks between the two countries said the United States is hopeful that Jordan will opt to buy additional U.S.-made, improved Hawk ground-to-air missiles, which it already has in its arsenal. During his visit, Hussein will go to Fort Bliss, Tex., to see a firing demonstration of the Hawk.
In addition, the sources said, there is a good possibility of an agreement on Jordanian purchase of U.S. jet fighters to augment the F5 models that are the backbone of its air force. The Jordanians have asked for the F16 fighter-bomber, one of the two most advanced planes in the U.S. military jet fleet.
However, the sources continued, the United States, concerned about costs and the limited number of F16s available for sale, has been trying to persuade the Jordanians to buy a less sophisticated aircraft such as the new generation F5, which is under development. The F5 is a highly maneuverable, medium-range plane designed for smaller air forces.
Hussein, concerned about strengthening his country's defenses against Syria, has been considering the purchase of Soviet missiles and other weaponry. That has disturbed the United States, which traditionally has been Jordan's main arms supplier. This concern has become particularly acute at a time when Washington is seeking increased security cooperation with Jordan as part of the "strategic consensus" the administration wants to build among friendly Mideast states.
"We have an interest, obviously, where Jordan would purchase its arms," a senior U.S. official said yesterday. The official, who asked not to be identified, said that the United States does not want the Soviet Union to expand its arms-supply influence further in the Middle East; and he added that this concern has been communicated to Jordan.
In addition to the military hardware questions, the administration hopes that the visit will promote a good relationship between Reagan and Hussein that will make the king more sympathetic toward the Mideast peace process. Jordan has refused to take part in the Camp David talks involving the United States, Israel and Egypt; and U.S. officials concede there is no chance that Hussein will undergo a change of heart at this point.
But, administration sources said, Reagan hopes to build on the favorable climate established by his success with the Saudi arms deal to impress upon Hussein that the United States is a reliable ally of the Arab states as well as Israel and to urge him to move closer to U.S.-sponsored efforts for negotiating an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As the senior official put it: "We do not expect when the visit ends to have his name on the dotted line. The idea is to establish a dialogue."