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USD 60B arms deal with Saudi Arabia goes through

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The package includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets

WASHINGTON (AP): A USD 60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that raised eyebrows among pro-Israeli lawmakers was expected to be a done deal at midnight Friday.

The Defence Department notified Congress of the plan last month, and lawmakers had 30 days to try to block or amend the deal. Without loud objections voiced by Israel, the matter received little debate and lawmakers focused their attention on the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

The 10-year deal is considered one of the largest-ever single US arms sales. It is intended to strengthen Saudi defence forces as a counter to Iran's growing power in the Persian Gulf region.

The package includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets, upgrades to 70 existing Saudi F-15s, 190 helicopters and a wide array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as accessories such as night-vision goggles and radar warning systems.

In a Nov. 10 bipartisan letter to Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 198 House members asked for assurances that the sale would not hurt Israel's military edge in the Middle East.

Gates and Clinton responded in a letter signed Tuesday that they were confident that Israel's military prowess would not be undercut by the deal because of special attention paid to its close ally through US arms sales and other initiatives.

"Our commitment to Israel's QME (qualitative military edge) is rock solid and long-standing," they wrote.

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