US planning $20 bn arms package for Saudi Arabia


Washington : The US is mulling arms sales worth $20 billion to Saudi Arabia as part of a controversial deal that could run into opposition from legislators, The New York Times reported Saturday.

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The package would include advance weaponry such as satellite-guided bombs and upgrades to the country's air force and navy, the daily said.

The deal, to be formally presented to Congress during the fall, comes as administration officials voiced concerns Friday that Saudi Arabia was playing an unproductive role in Iraq. Assurance that the Saudi government would lend greater support to US efforts in Iraq was reportedly not part of the arms deal.

The increase in arms sales is part of a plan to bolster the militaries of US allies in the Gulf in the face of Iran's growing strength in the region, officials told the Times. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates could also receive increased military aid as part of the deal.

Legislators, some concerned about the sale's impact on the chief US ally in the region, Israel, were briefed on the possible deal this week – a move requested by Saudi Arabia itself before the two countries entered into final talks on the arms package, the Times said.

US officials believed they could placate Israel and Congress' concerns by also promising increased military aid to the Jewish state, while placing restrictions on Saudi Arabia over the range of bombs to be sold and how close to Israel the weapons could be stored.