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Arms Sale to Help Bolster Long-Term Gulf Security

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

EN ROUTE TO SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, July 30, 2007 – A military sales package for Arab countries estimated at $20 billion represents a tangible symbol of the United States’ commitment to the region and its long-term security, a senior defense official said today on background.

The arms, the bulk to be sold to Saudi Arabia, are expected to help promote stability in the Persian Gulf, including Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who released a statement about the plan before leaving for a trip here with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said the package "will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran."

"We are helping to strengthen the defensive capabilities of our partners and we plan to initiate discussions with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states on a proposed package of military technologies that will help support their ability to secure peace and stability in the Gulf region," the statement said.

The nature of the package, including dollar figures attached to it, will be on the table here as Rice and Gates meet in Sharm el-Sheikh with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Congress must approve the sales package before it is formalized.

The package will consist of missile defenses, including early-warning and air capabilities; maritime capabilities, with enhancements to Saudi Arabia’s eastern fleet; weaponry to counter unconventional threats; and enhanced counter-proliferation capabilities. “It’s a very broad package,” an official said.

Arms deals demonstrate that the United States values its long-term relationships in the region and has a long-term interest in its security, the senior official said. “We have been here 60 years and we’re going to be here a lot longer, and one of the reasons for these arms deals is to reaffirm that long-term shared interest in the shared security and stability of the region,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest buyer, has been a close ally of the United States for decade, he noted. “They have been in important partner in the war on terror. They have been especially effective in going after al Qaeda, particularly after the attacks within Saudi Arabia itself,” he said.

That’s not to say, he emphasized, that the Saudis – or anyone else in the region -- is “doing all the things we would like them to do” and can’t contribute more toward regional stability.

“But they are doing some things that are very important to us,” he said. “And I think that, plus the long-term relationship and the key role Saudi Arabia plays in all these other issues … are a manifestation of why the kind of long term relationship represented by the arms deal is important.”

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Robert M. Gates

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