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US to sell bombs to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

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WASHINGTON (AFP): The United States has said it plans to sell thousands of bombs and missiles to Israel as well as 10 Seahawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, in deals worth about USD 1.9 billion each, officials said.

The US State Department informed Congress of the proposed arms sales to two allies in the Middle East that are both wary of Washington's negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The planned weapons deal with Israel would provide 3,000 Hellfire missiles, 250 medium-range air-to-air missiles, 4,100 glide bombs and 50 BLU-113 "super penetrator" bombs designed to reach underground sites.

Israel, which has sharply criticized US diplomacy with Iran, has reserved the right to take unilateral military action against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and the bunker buster munitions could be used to strike at buried nuclear sites.

The notification to lawmakers of the planned arms sales came after a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz suggested Washington might expand its military aid to Israel as compensation for a possible agreement between Iran and major powers to curtail Tehran's nuclear work.

Such an arrangement could involve more radar-evading F-35 fighter jets and more missile defence systems, the paper reported.

US officials said on Wednesday the planned sale would "replenish" existing stocks in Israel's arsenal and would not provide the country with new types of weapons.

"The proposed sale of this equipment will provide Israel the ability to support its self-defence needs," according to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

The planned deal with Saudi Arabia involves 10 Seahawk MH-60R helicopters along with associated radar, navigation systems and 38 Hellfire missiles, the agency said in a statement.

The equivalent value of the two arms sales reflected Washington's commitment to ensure Israel's "qualitative military edge" in the region.

The United States has agreed USD 90 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2014.

The main defence firms for the Saudi sale are Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

For the arms deal with Israel, the main contractors are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Ellwood National Forge Company and Raytheon Missile Systems.

Congress must be informed 30 days before the administration can take final steps on a military sale to a foreign government. The sale can go ahead unless lawmakers vote to block or amend the deal.

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