Bill would expedite arms to Israel

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A bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress would add Israel to a select group of countries entitled to expedited arms exports.

The Security Assistance Bill, which aims to tighten controls on arms exports, would allow Israel and South Korea to join the “NATO 3” nations – the NATO alliance plus Australia, Japan and New Zealand. The measure halves the congressional review of arms exports from 60 days to 30 days and grants the president broad latitude in approving parts replacement.

The bill, approved late last month by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and now under consideration by the full House, also would keep North Korea as a designated state sponsor of terrorism until it certifies that it is not providing nuclear weapons assistance to Iran or Syria.

It also affirms President Bush’s proposal last year to increase defense assistance to Israel to an average of $3 billion annually over the next decade and mandates presidential reports to Congress certifying that Israel is maintaining its qualitative military edge in the region.

The bill’s chief sponsors include U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Cailf.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), its ranking member; and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.).

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