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US says defence contracts serve 'national interest'

A file photo.

WASHINGTON (AFP): Big arms deals to countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel are in the "national interest" of the United States as Washington seeks to keep the region stable and counter potential threats from Iran, a US diplomat has said.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley had no specific comment on what officials said this week will be the largest ever US arms deal, a 60-billion-dollar sale to Saudi Arabia of advanced warplanes and helicopters.

Nor would he confirm comments from a US defence official that President Barack Obama's administration would formally notify Congress this week or next about the groundbreaking deal.

"We provide military resources, security assistance to a range of allies, from Israel to Saudi Arabia," Crowley said.

"It is in our national interest to do so, to maintain security and stability in the region."

Crowley said, "we do work closely with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to make sure that our allies and friends have the capability they need for their own security."

He added that Saudi Arabia and other countries "have very justifiable concerns about the emergence of Iran as a less than constructive actor in the region."

The comments came as the Israeli government said Thursday it had given final approval to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter aircraft from the United States, in one of the Jewish state's biggest arms purchases.

US officials see the package for Saudi Arabia as underscoring the strategic alliance between the two countries, despite serious strains over Middle East diplomacy and the aftermath of the September 112001 attacks, according to comments from a defence official this week.


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