Saudi Arabia's King Fahd asked the United States to replace its ambassador there shortly after the ambassador delivered a complaint over the Saudi purchase of Chinese missiles, a published report says.
The report in Friday's Washington Post came as a group of 32 senators urged that the administration put pressure on Saudi Arabia to withdraw the ballistic missiles.The letter from the senators says the administration should reconsider a $450 million support package of training and maintenance for AWACS radar surveillance planes. The administration has not yet asked officially for congressional approval of the package.
"We strongly believe that our current policy toward arms sales to Saudi Arabia must be re-examined," the letter said.
The letter probably will be sent Friday, after additional signatures are collected, congressional aides said.
According to the Post, Fahd asked that ambassador Hume A. Horan be replaced shortly after Horan delivered an official U.S. complaint over the missile purchase.
State Department officials who were not identified by the Post confirmed that Horan was in Washington "on consultations" and was "not going back" to Saudi Arabia. They said the Saudi request was not specifically linked to the dispute over the Saudi purchase of Chinese-made missiles that now are deployed in the Saudi desert.
However, The Middle East Policy Survey, which disclosed news of Horan's recall in its latest edition appearing Friday, quoted administration officials as saying the "approximate cause" and "focal point" for the Saudi request for a replacement envoy was the Chinese missile issue, the Post said.
An unidentified former foreign service officer familiar with the incident told the Post that Fahd and Horan "somehow did not hit it off."
State Department spokesman Charles Redman said Friday that Horan had returned to the United States for consultations but that the action was unrelated to the controversy over the missiles.
The survey said Walter Cutler, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, would replace Horan, but the Post said State Department officials said the White House had not yet decided on a replacement.