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US to Announce New Middle East Arms Deal


U.S. officials say the Bush administration is expected to ask Congress to approve a major arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations, partly to counter Iran's rising influence in the region.

Administration officials say the package, worth at least $20 billion will include sophisticated weaponry, including satellite-guided bombs.

The administration is also expected to propose a new 10-year aid package for Israel worth $30 billion, as well as a 10-year package for Egypt worth $13 billion.

U.S. officials say Washington is seeking to strengthen ties with its Middle East allies as a buffer against Iran, which the U.S. accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The proposed arms deal with Saudi Arabia has drawn strong opposition from Israel. The Bush administration is also said to be concerned about the kingdom's failure to support the Iraqi government.

The arms deals are expected to be announced early next week in advance of a joint trip by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Rice and Gates are expected to press Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors to send an "affirmative message" in support of the Iraqi government and moderates there.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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