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Hearing debates Saudi arms deal

A congressional hearing is debating a proposal to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in arms.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee, convened the hearing Tuesday to solicit expert testimony on President Bush’s proposal to sell the arms as part of a broader package aimed at drawing the Saudis into a greater commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The proposed sale, part of a package that also increases military assistance to Israel and releases funds to the Palestinians, needs congressional approval.

“If we can’t get the Saudis to even commit to attending the upcoming regional conference on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, let alone resume active support for the [Palestinian Authority] and leadership in the Arab world encouraging a two-state solution, then why should we believe that their commitment to regional security is built on the same foundations as are ours, and why sell them these weapons?” Ackerman asked members of the committee.

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