Saudis deny rumors they plan to establish ties with USSR

Despite speculation to the contrary, Saudi Arabia does not intend to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, according to several high-level Saudi officials.

In Washington, the Saudi ambassador's dinner invitation to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin last month did not signal improved ties between the two countries, these officials say. Prince Bandar bin Sultan's invitation was merely a courtesy to Mr. Dobrynin, who is the dean of Washington's diplomatic corps.

Continued or increased American support for Israel may lead to strained Saudi-American ties, the Saudi officials say. Many Arab nations have urged the Saudis to seek better relations with Moscow in the hopes that the US will decrease its support for Israel if it fears it may lose one of its most important Arab allies.

Officials in Riyadh say this tactic would not work. Better Saudi-Soviet relations would only lead the US to increase aid to Israel, they say.

More important, Saudi officials say, they will agree to exchange ambassadors with Moscow only if there are tangible benefits to Riyadh.

Before Saudi Arabia will improve relations with the USSR, the officials say, the Soviets must:

* Withdraw all their forces from Afghanistan.

* End all hostile propaganda against the kingdom and reduce their presence, particularly military, in both South Yemen and Ethiopia.

* Allow Soviet Muslims greater freedom to practice their religion.

Even if the Soviets meet these conditions, the Saudis will not necessarily exchange ambassadors, the Saudis add. The proper ''psychological climate'' also must exist.

The officials have no illusions that the Soviets intend to meet any, much less all, of these conditions. As a result, Saudi-Soviet relations will not improve, they say.

A senior official denied there was any contradiction in Riyadh's policy of refusing to improve ties with the USSR while supporting Syria, one of the Soviets' closest Mideast allies. The official stressed that, despite Washington's belief, Syria is not a Soviet puppet. He said it was the US policy of attempting to isolate Syria in the Middle East that has pushed Damascus closer to Moscow and induced it to become anti-American.

The Saudis fear that continued US support to Israel will only make it increasingly difficult for America's Arab friends to convince their neighbors and their own populations of the benefits of good relations with the US. This may cause a further decline or even an end to American-Arab cooperation, they say. Should this happen, the Saudis warn, Soviet penetration into the Arab world would only be made easier.

A senior official said that although Soviet and Israeli policies are not coordinated, they seem to have a common goal: to destabilize and weaken existing Arab governments.

Although the Soviet Union is of grave concern to the Saudis, a senior official in Riyadh lamented that Saudi Arabia has little detailed knowledge about the Soviet Union.

This situation is being remedied at least in part by the formation of analysis groups in Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry and in its newly created Center for Strategic Studies, which is attached to the Council of Ministers. The Foreign Ministry's group is concerned mainly with growing trade between Saudi Arabia and East-bloc states.

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