Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Middle East Issues

October 12, 1981

Q. Ford and Carter think that it's necessary for the U.S. to deal directly with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization].

The President. Well, there would be a condition -- always has been. There's never been any refusal, only until they will recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation, which they still have never done.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. McFarlane [Robert C. McFarlane, Counselor of the Department of State] says we're going to be sending U.S. servicemen to the Sudan. Can you assure us that they're not there to take part in combat?

The President. I can assure you that we have no intention of any Americans engaging in combat.

Q. Sir, if Colonel Qadhafi [Mu'amaar Qadhafi, Chief of State of Libya] is such a bad man, why don't we stop buying his oil and financing his activities?

The President. Well, someone else would buy the oil and finance his activities, and so we wouldn't be gaining anything there.

Q. Why not just cut him off?

The President. Well, as I say, I don't think that it would make any difference on that. We might be cutting off our own nose to spite our face.

Q. What do you think of the AWACS outlook right now?

The President. Well, I continue to be cautiously optimistic. I hope that some of the Senators who are opposed will recognize that even more than before it is essential that we show the Middle East that we are prepared to participate there in trying to bring peace and in aligning ourselves with the moderate Arab states, as well as we have with Israel.

Q. What about the speedup in arms delivery to Egypt and to the Sudan?

The President. I think that that's called for, yes.

Q. Are we going to make certain that Qadhafi does not invade the Sudan and take over the Sudan?

The President. Egypt and the Sudan have a treaty with regard to that. And Egypt has made it plain that they're going to stand by that treaty. And I think if you compare Libya to Egypt, that should restrain -- to beat Qadhafi.

Q. Are we drawing a line in the sand?

The President. Well, maybe along that border there of the Sudan. Maybe they have.

Q. Are we drawing it, sir?

The President. Well, as I've tried to point out, I don't think it's necessary for us to.

Q. Thank you very much, sir.

Note: The exchange began at 3:20 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House as the President returned from a weekend stay at Camp David, Md.