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Bush brings arms deal with Saudi visit

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  • NEW: Bush administration plans to sell Saudis $20 billion in arms
  • Iran says President Bush fomenting tensions; U.S. leader arrives in Saudi Arabia
  • Bush has asked Arab nations to confront Iran "before it's too late"
  • President called Iran the "world's leading sponsor of terror"
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(CNN) -- The Bush administration said Monday it notified Congress of plans to sell $20 billion in sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia. The deal includes the proposed sale of 900 "joint direct attack munitions" worth close to $120 million, said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Arriving in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for talks with King Abdullah, Bush delivered a proposed weapons sale that is part of a U.S. strategy to beef up security of its Persian Gulf allies to counter threats posed by Iran's rising influence in the region.

Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the committee would examine the deal.

"We need to be convinced that the sale makes sense militarily and ensure that it in no way harms our security or those of our allies," the Democrat from Delaware said in a news release. "We must also make certain that the administration does not just try to use a few arms sales to substitute for the comprehensive, coherent strategy we need for the region."

Bush's Mideast tour includes visits to Israel, the West Bank, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. See map of Bush's itinerary »

Also on Monday, top Iranian officials heaped scorn on Bush's visit to the Middle East, with one of them saying the American leader was attempting to stir up "Iranophobia," a state-run Iranian news agency reported Monday.

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency noted the comments of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Ala'eddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

Bush, in a speech Sunday in Abu Dhabi, labeled Iran as the "world's leading sponsor of terror" and asked allies to join the United States in confronting Iran "before it's too late."

But Mottaki -- who made his remarks to Al-Jazeera news network Sunday -- said the United States "was the main cause of extremism in the region as it has been supporting terrorist and extremist groups during the past six years." Video Watch excerpt from Bush's speech »

He said Bush was trying to foment tensions in the Persian Gulf over the Strait of Hormuz incident on January 6. The U.S. military described a confrontation between U.S. ships and Iranian boats, but Mottaki called the American version of the story fabricated, the Islamic Republic News Agency said.

The report paraphrased Mottaki as saying that "fanning the fuel of Iranophobia was the objective of Bush's visit to the region."

In the IRNA report, Boroujerdi said referring to Iran as a threat won't affect Teheran's ties with its neighbors.

Mottaki touted growing bilateral cooperation between Iran and its neighbors and said that U.S. officials can't "understand the historical, religious and cultural commonalties between Iran and other regional countries," said the IRNA report.

The report paraphrased Boroujerdi as saying Bush's talk about Iran "is the saber-rattling of a defeated man."


"Bush would achieve no results from his visit to the region given Iran's current cooperation with the regional states as well as Tehran's firm decision to safeguard regional security with the help of the regional countries," the lawmaker said.

Boroujerdi indicated that Bush embarked on the trip to shore up support for his unpopular policies and that his visit to the West Bank and the Persian Gulf "was just a political propaganda campaign as he knew his policies in the region were futile." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott also contributed to this report.

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