U.S. delays Saudi arms sale

The Bush administration delayed asking Congress to approve an arms sale to Saudi Arabia until next year.

Bush proposed the sale to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors in July, saying it was part of a package that would draw more Arab nations into the peace process and create a united front against Iran. Reports said the sale would amount to $20 billion in arms.

Last week, the State Department asked Congress to approve sales to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates totalling $10.8 billion, postponing the Saudi component, according to Defense News, an independent publication covering the U.S. military. The Bush administration delayed the Saudi sale because of congressional opposition, Defense News said.

Most of the arms to be sold to Kuwait and to the UAE are anti-missile defense systems, but the sale to the Saudis reportedly includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions, kits that greatly enhance the accuracy of offensive bombs. Israeli leaders said they did not oppose the sale, but some pro-Israel groups and Congress members say it is risky to sell offensive arms to a regime that has at times harbored militant Islamists.

News of the sale prompted the introduction of tough anti-Saudi legislation in the House and Senate, although the bills failed to garner significant co-sponsorship. Pro-Israel sources said they expected the sale to be approved as early as January, albeit after close congressional review.

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