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Tue 15 Jan 2008 06:54 PM

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US Congress unlikely to block $20bn arms deal

House Foreign Affairs Committee not considering disapproval resolution, report says.

The US Congress appears unlikely to obstruct plans to sell $123 million worth of sophisticated precision-guided bomb technology to Saudi Arabia, newswire AP reported on Tuesday.

The newswire said Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, did not intend to consider a resolution of disapproval, quoting spokeswoman Lynne Weil.

President George W. Bush's administration officially notified Congress on Monday of its intent to sell the bomb-delivery systems, as part of a total $20 billion arms package to bolster the defense of US allies in the Gulf.

Timed to coincide with Bush's current visit to Saudi Arabia. The notification opens a 30-day window during which lawmakers can object to the sale.

The weapons deal, which was first announced in July 2007, was originally postponed over opposition from Congress. The Saudi deal was reportedly intended as a counterweight to a US plan to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid.

The US Gulf arms package will be shared between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE and is believed to aimed at helping to counter growing Iranian military clout.

Monday's announcement came as Bush visited Saudi Arabia. The president is on a Middle East tour during which he has warned that Iran threatens security around the world by backing militants, and urged his Gulf Arab allies to confront the danger.

The tour has included stops in Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and finishes on Wednesday.

Many view the tour as a last ditch effort by Bush to make a positive contribution to the Middle East before he steps down at the end of this year.

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