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Military Sales Package Aims to Boost Long-Term Stability in Middle East

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 1, 2007 – The recently announced military sales package to several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, represents an investment in the region’s long-term stability, U.S. and Saudi leaders said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates flank Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Failsal at a news conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 1, 2007. Gates and Rice are in the Middle East to discuss regional affairs and the long-term U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faysal for a joint news conference today after meeting last night with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and other top Saudi officials. The meeting, the U.S. Cabinet members’ second joint appearance during a visit to the region, came just days after Rice announced the estimated $20 billion military sales package.

The arms -- the bulk to be sold to Saudi Arabia -- 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 counterproliferation capabilities.

Rice told reporters today the package is part of sweeping arrangements to promote stability in the Persian Gulf, including Iraq. “It is to secure the peace,” she said.

The United States has had security cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region “that goes back decades,” Rice said. She noted that a 10-year arrangement with Egypt was about to expire.

“So there is nothing new here,” she said. “The challenges may be different. In some ways, the challenges may be more acute, … but this a very long-time and long-term security relationship in which we have been engaged.”

“We have had ongoing bilateral security relationships with most of the countries in the Gulf for decades,” Gates agreed. “Those assistance programs are tailored to the needs of each of those countries and their perceptions of their own security requirements.”

The Saudi foreign minister said Saudi Arabia is a peaceful country in an area of tremendous threat and upheaval. “So it is not strange that it is trying to acquire a posture of defense that will protect the interests and safety of the people of Saudi Arabia.”

He expressed concern about terrorists crossing into Saudi Arabia from Iraq as one reason Saudi Arabia has asked the United States for more security cooperation.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest buyer in this recent arms package, has been a close ally of the United States for decades, a senior defense official said on background. “They have been in important partner in the war on terror. They have been especially effective in going after al Qaeda,” 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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Condoleezza Rice
Robert M. Gates

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