The Reagan administration mounted a campaign yesterday to keep U.S. options open on arms sales to Jordan as the State and Defense departments prepared to brief Congress on overall Middle East arms policy.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz charged that a Senate resolution opposing sales of advanced weapons to Jordan is an attempt "to stick the Congress' finger in King Hussein's eye" and is "not a service to the peace process."
Shultz made the comment aboard his plane to Portugal for the NATO foreign ministers meeting.
He and other officials refused to be specific about the timing of potential notification to Congress of proposed arms sales to Jordan being considered as a signal of U.S. support for Hussein's diplomatic initiatives. Administration sources said a U.S. economic aid program of $200 million to $300 million for Jordan is also under consideration.
Shultz told reporters that a comprehensive review of U.S. arms policy in the Mideast, a first step toward controversial new arms sales to Arab nations, "is basically finished, and I expect it will be getting briefed on the Hill this week."
When the arms review was ordered, the White House indicated that major Mideast sales would be delayed "four to six weeks" to permit the executive branch to develop a "justification and rationale" to proceed.
The decision to brief Congress on results of the review signals an administration intention to end a five-month hiatus.
A resolution sponsored by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Heinz (R-Pa.) and bearing the names of 67 other senators opposes advanced arms sales to Jordan while that country "continues to oppose the Camp David peace process and purchases arms from the Soviet Union."
Heinz told The Washington Post that he has no intention of pushing the resolution to a vote but hopes to accomplish his purpose by submitting the measure with a long list of cosponsors.
Heinz said the United States "should examine the need for a long-term security relationship with Jordan" if Hussein negotiates directly with and concludes a peace agreement with Israel, "but not before."
Several prominent Senate Republicans issued strong objections to the timing of the Kennedy-Heinz resolution during a Senate GOP caucus yesterday.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), who ranks third in the Senate GOP leadership, said moving ahead with the resolution would undercut administration progress with Hussein on the peace process.
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) quoted Heinz as telling President Reagan at a White House meeting that he would "introduce but not press" the Jordan arms resolution. Dole called the resolution "a little premature," saying Congress should give Shultz an opportunity make his case.
Heinz said he plans to introduce the resolution "unless I get further information that would get me to change my mind."
The White House joined opposition to the resolution.
"We believe that any legislation of this type would prejudge and impose new inhibitions on moves toward peace," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said in a statement. "We recognize that Jordan has legitimate security concerns and requirements and that there is a relationship between feeling secure at home and conducting an active, assertive foreign policy."
Shultz said Hussein "has taken some important initiatives that are positive, that move in the direction of peace and move in the direction of direct negotiations with Israel , that employ the word 'non-belligerency' and, to greet those moves by the Senate sticking its finger in his eye doesn't seem to me to be a particularly good thing for the United States to do.
"So I'm unhappy about the broad bipartisan effort to stick the Congress' finger in King Hussein's eye. I wish they wouldn't do it."