Thursday, 29 December 2011

US sends 'strong message' with Saudi fighter deal

HONOLULU, Hawaii — The United States said Thursday it had sent a "strong message" to the Gulf region, as tensions rise with Iran, by signing a $29.4 billion deal to provide F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.
The deal, which was signed over the weekend, will supply 84 new Boeing F-15SA aircraft and modernize 70 existing planes and include munitions, spare parts, training and maintenance contracts, US officials said.
It sends "a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East," said senior State Department official Andrew Shapiro.
"It will enhance Saudi Arabia's ability to deter and defend against external threats to its sovereignty," he told reporters.
The deal, announced formally on Thursday in Hawaii as President Barack Obama vacationed in his native state, was first unveiled in October 2010 as part of a $60 billion US arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
In Honolulu, White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said the deal would support more than 50,000 American jobs at a time of high unemployment and provide a $3.5 billion annual boost to the US economy.
The delivery of the package would unfold over 15 to 20 years and also includes Black Hawk and Apache attack helicopters, defense officials said.
Thursday's announcement came with tensions between Iran and the United States and its Gulf allies on the rise over Tehran's nuclear drive.
Iran has rejected a warning that the US military will not tolerate any attempt by Tehran to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to tankers in a move that would threaten deep disruption to global oil supplies.

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