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U.S. plans arms deals for Mideast allies

July 28, 2007|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will announce next week a series of arms deals worth at least $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Persian Gulf states, as well as new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt, a move to shore up allies in the Middle East and counter Iran's rising influence, U.S. officials said Friday.

The military assistance agreements would provide $30 billion in new U.S. aid to Israel and $13 billion to Egypt over 10 years, the officials said. Both figures represent significant increases in military support.

U.S. officials said the arms sales to Saudi Arabia are expected to include air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into "smart" precision-guided bombs.

Most, but not all, of the arms sales to the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman -- will be defensive, the officials said.

U.S. officials said the goal of the military aid packages and arms sales was to strengthen allies against Iran at a time when the government in Tehran seeks to extend its power in the region.

The Bush administration's plans will be announced Monday in advance of trips next week to the Middle East by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and are expected to be on their agenda in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

There are no final agreements on quantities and specific models of arms to be sold to the Gulf states, U.S. officials said.

The administration hopes to provide a full rundown this fall for congressional approval.

The aid packages to Israel and Egypt are further along. A U.S.-Israeli agreement, following a 10-year arrangement that expires this year, has been under discussion since February, U.S. officials said.

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