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Tillerson: Saudi Arms Deal Meant to Counter Iranian Influence

  • VOA News

President Donald Trump waits for the beginning of a bilateral meeting with Saudi King Salam at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. From left are, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn.

An arms deal worth nearly $110 billion that Saudi Arabia and the United States signed Saturday is meant to counter Iran’s “malign” influence in the region, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Speaking at a joint briefing in Riyadh with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Tillerson said the defense package was meant to help in the “long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region.”

The deal was signed, Tillerson said, “in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats, which exist on Saudi Arabia's borders on all sides."

The defense deal, effective immediately, was one of a series agreements signed Saturday by Saudi Arabian King Salman and President Donald Trump.

It is designed to enhance military and economic partnerships between the two countries, and it includes a second defense pact with options valued at up to $350 billion over the next 10 years.

Tillerson said Trump’s focus on his visit to Saudi Arabia was pushing back on any threats posed by Iran. He said the series of public and private meetings Trump was undertaking was meant to send a “strong message to our common enemies.”

Tillerson called on newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to use his second term in office to end the country’s ballistic missile program and its practice of funding terrorism.

"What I would hope, is that Rouhani ... use that [new] term to begin a process of dismantling Iran's network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of the terrorist network,” Tillerson told reporters.

Al-Jubeir, seemingly stealing a line from Trump, said strengthening ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia would help “drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanate.”

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