Saudis Considering Financial Aid to Moscow

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saudi Arabia, which refused to recognize the Soviet Union until a year ago because of the Saudi Royal Family's fierce anti-communism, is now considering giving aid to the newly democratic government in Moscow, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, flew to Moscow on a previously unannounced visit Wednesday to discuss possible financial aid and other issues, the officials said.

Bandar met briefly here with Secretary of State James A. Baker III on Wednesday morning to discuss Baker's visit to the Soviet Union last week, they said. Bandar then flew to Moscow and Baker to Syria.

A decision to extend aid to the Soviet Union by Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab oil producer and one of the world's richest nations, could solve a major dilemma for the Bush Administration: The United States and the West want to help the Soviets remake their economy along Western lines, but they have little extra money in their budgets to help directly.

As a result, the Bush Administration and other Western governments have relied almost entirely on low-cost technical assistance as the center of their still-embryonic aid efforts in the Russian Federation and the Soviet Union's 11 other remaining republics.

Yevgeny M. Primakov, a special adviser to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, visited Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries last week, proposing ways in which they could aid the central Soviet government.

Saudi Arabia has a direct interest in good relations with the Soviet Union, in part because of Moscow's continuing role in the Middle East. Moscow has some influence with Iraq, Saudi Arabia's northern neighbor, with which it has testy relations.

Saudi Arabia is also a major backer of the Muslim rebels in Afghanistan in their war against the Soviet-backed Kabul government. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed last week to end their military aid to the warring factions in Afghanistan by the end of this year and pledged to urge their allies--like Saudi Arabia--to do the same.

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