WASHINGTON — State Department officials said today that the NATO allies turned down a U.S. appeal for help in protecting oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
But Secretary of State George P. Shultz is likely to try again when he meets next month with allied foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland.
The appeal for help in patrolling the tense gulf was made by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger at a two-day meeting of defense ministers in Brussels.
A State Department official, who demanded anonymity, said Weinberger was turned down with the "traditional argument that the gulf is outside NATO's defense area."
Besides, the official said, "they turned us down because this was not the forum in which to make the proposition."
The right place, he said, is the North Atlantic Council meeting Shultz will attend June 11-12 in Reykjavik.
But, the official said, "the reading we came away with from Brussels would discourage optimism. From the discussions, I'd say there is little likelihood they would accede to our appeals."
Meanwhile, Charles E. Redman, the department spokesman, described the U.S. consultations with the allies as inconclusive.
He said "courses of actions" were discussed with a number of North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries.
Redman acknowledged the gulf is not within NATO's "geographic area of responsibility."
Nevertheless, he said, "the alliance recognizes that events outside its treaty area can affect the security interests of its members. In that respect, NATO is on record as urging support for those alliance nations which have the capability of protecting Western interests."
Asked if Weinberger had been rebuffed in Brussels, Redman said: "I am not prepared to come to any conclusion. It's a consultative process."
At the same time, Redman defended the Administration's dealings with Congress over the gulf but acknowledged that it did not inform Congress that the U.S. Navy escorted Kuwaiti merchant ships delivering American M-60 tanks to Bahrain in February and again on Monday.
"That was not something required," Redman said.
He said using Navy escorts "did not put U.S. forces at risk; it did not put them in a hostile situation."
Redman said no American warship had been fired upon in the gulf since patrols began in 1949.