Saudi Arabia announced Thursday it had signed a $6 billion contract to buy passenger jets from two U.S. companies, in a deal that President Clinton had personally labored to win for the United States.

Prince Sultan, Saudi defense and aviation minister, met with President Clinton Thursday at the White House to present him with a copy of the contract for 61 airliners to be built by Boeing Co. and McDonnell Douglas Corp."This is important for the Saudi airline, because we are going to privatize it soon, and this will make it a very advanced airline," the prince told reporters after the meeting, also attended by the chief executive officers of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

The White House hailed the contract as a "major success for the American aerospace industry," which had to compete heavily with companies from other countries.

"We have worked very, very hard to make the case for the sale," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said. "It's a sale in which the White House and the president justifiably take a great amount of pride."

President Clinton has said it is important to help the U.S. aircraft industry preserve its technological edge in an era of reduced defense spending and intense competition from foreign aviation companies like Europe's Airbus consortium.

Mr. McCurry said the U.S. lobbying efforts had involved "everyone from the State Department to the Commerce Department to the NSC (National Security Council) to the president himself, who spoke to the king about it."

Boeing Chairman Frank Shrontz, speaking to reporters on Thursday after the session with President Clinton, said the president "was a very persuasive individual" in lobbying for the deal.

Under the new contract, the 61 airliners will be delivered from 1997 through the year 2,002.

The contract includes five 747s and 23 777s made by Boeing and 29 MD-90s and four freight MD-11s made by McDonnell Douglas.

The statement said the aircraft will be built in the states of Washington and California and will provide work for approximately 100,000 employees at Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and subcontractors throughout the United States.

Prince Sultan indicated he was aware of the contract's implications for the U.S. economy, saying, "We are very much interested in supporting the economic well-being of our friends in this country."

Mr. Shrontz said it was his understanding that Saudi Arabia would be financing the deal from its own resources, without external help.

Although the Saudis said last June they planned to buy the airliners from Boeing and McDonnell, the contracts had not been completed.