WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, turning aside objections by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, strongly defended today a proposal to sell American-made computers to Iran.
"I see no reason to put U.S. manufacturers at a disadvantage," Baldrige told a Senate panel, claiming that the relatively unsophisticated equipment involved could be easily obtained by Iran from foreign manufacturers.
The dispute, the latest argument between the two Cabinet officers on the issue of export controls, flared with reports that Weinberger was seeking to have the proposed sale reviewed by the National Security Council, and possibly even by President Reagan.
Baldrige said he was miffed by Weinberger's strong reaction and suggested that the Pentagon should not even have a role in the proposed sale. "This is not a defense issue. This is a foreign policy issue," he said.
And, Baldrige said, lacking any State Department directive against such sales, "we have no reason not to approve it."