WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Monday announced a proposed $13 billion military aid package for Egypt and a $30 billion package for Israel, along with plans to provide such aid to Saudi Arabia and Gulf states.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement hours before leaving with Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a rare joint trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia where they are seeking more Arab help in stabilizing Iraq.
Washington is striving to assure Gulf allies, worried by the growing strength of Iran and war in Iraq, that the United States is committed to the region and will stand by them, with arms sales part of that process, U.S. officials say.
“This effort will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran,” said Rice in a statement announcing the defense agreements.
The packages for Egypt and Israel would be for 10-year periods.
Rice said the Bush administration was starting discussions with Egypt for the $13 billion military-assistance deal, which would strengthen Egypt’s ability to “address shared strategic goals.”
“Further modernizing the Egyptian and Saudi Armed Forces and increasing interoperability will bolster our partners’ resolve in confronting the threat of radicalism and cement their respective roles as regional leaders in the quest for Middle East peace and in ensuring Lebanon’s freedom and independence,” Rice said.
The Saudi package, which along with the other deals must be approved by Congress, is expected to upgrade the country’s missile defenses and air force and increase its naval capabilities, a defense official told Reuters on Saturday.
Bush administration officials said the amount for the Saudi aid deal is still being negotiated.
Rice said that U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns planned to travel to Israel and the region in mid-August to finalize the agreements.