Rice: U.S. will keep Mideast strategic balance

The United States intends to help preserve the strategic balance between Israel and the Arabs, Condoleezza Rice said.

Washington’s multibillion plan to boost military aid to Israel and Egypt and sells arms to Saudi Arabia over the next decade will not blunt Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region, the U.S. secretary of state made clear Tuesday. Rice is expected in Israel on Wednesday.

“There isn’t anything new in the United States working with its allies for security cooperation,” Rice told reporters accompanying her on a visit to the Middle East. “We are also determined to maintain the balances – the military and strategic balances – within the region that we have been committed to as well.”

The Bush administration wants to bolster allied Gulf Arab states against an ascendant Iran.

Israel, which has been rebuilding its own armed forces since last year’s Lebanon war, had voiced concern over the planned multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicated Sunday that Israel was satisfied by Washington’s intentions.

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