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Official: $20 billion arms sale to Saudis in the works

  • Story Highlights
  • "It's all about Iran," official says of Saudi arms package under consideration
  • Deal not closed; will be discussed next week by top U.S., Saudi officials
  • For the first time, Saudis may get satellite-guided bombs called JDAMs
  • Israel expected to raise concerns about the proposed arms deal
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From Barbara Starr
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is developing a proposed $20 billion, 10-year arms sales package for Saudi Arabia, a senior administration official confirmed on Saturday.

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Saudis next week.

The proposed sale, first reported in The New York Times, is intended to upgrade the Saudi military's ability to counter possible Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf region, the official said.

"This is all about Iran," said the official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because discussions with the Saudis are still going on and the arms sale deal has not been completed.

Israel is expected to raise objections to the arms package, and has expressed concerns about previous Saudi arms deals.

The official said the Bush administration is mindful that Israel must maintain its "qualitative edge" in the region.

Besides Saudi Arabia, other countries in discussion with the United States about arms sales include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

One of the more controversial proposals will probably be selling the Saudis, for the first time, satellite-guided bombs known as JDAMs. The sale may include a 500-pound and a 2,000-pound version of the aerial bomb.

The Israelis are said to be very concerned about the Saudis having that precision-strike capability, so the United States will discuss basing the weapons as far away from Israel as possible, the official said.

Other elements under discussion are new naval vessels, an advanced version of air-to-air missiles already used by the United States, and advanced Patriot missiles.

The proposed sale is expected to be a major topic of discussion next week when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meet with Saudi officials.

The sale would have to be approved by Congress. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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