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Israel trying to block US-S Arabia defence deal: report

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An F-15 fighter.

JERUSALEM (PTI): Israel is trying to scuttle a major defence deal between US and Saudi Arabia amid fears that these weapons “might turn” against the Jewish state with change in the region’s geo-strategic situation in the future.

Ehud Barak, the hardline Israeli Defence Minister, raised the deal with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor General Jim Jones two weeks ago in Washington.

As part of the deal, the purchase includes scores of new F-15 fighter aircraft and the upgrading of the 150 F-15s already in the Saudi air force, the Haaretz daily reported quoting a defence source.

“Today these planes are against Iran, tomorrow they might turn against us,” the source said.

Israel made its reservations clear at a meeting in Tel Aviv between top Israeli defence officials and a delegation led by US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy, the report said.

The aircraft deal was also raised in talks between Saudi King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama last week.

The defence source told Israeli newspaper that the Americans are interested in building up the Saudi air force vis-a-vis Iran, which would help deter the Islamic Republic.

Israel, however, hopes that if the deal goes forward, Saudi Arabia will receive fewer advanced versions of the F-15 than those possessed by Israel, which seeks to maintain its air force's superiority.

A senior American administration source told Haaretz that the White House has promised Israel it would have priority access to any new weapons system and, in some cases, exclusive rights to buy new weapons systems, as opposed to Arab states.

“The administration is conducting open and completely transparent talks with Israel on the matter, and we are updating Israel on any planned deal to hear its reservations,” the official said.

Israel has stepped up pressure on the US to check the nuclear programme of Iran amid fears that the Islamic Republic may be on track to weaponise its programme. Iran has dismissed such fears, saying its nuclear programme was peaceful in nature.

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F-15  S Arab  Israel  
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