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U.S. finalizes deal on unprecedented military aid to Israel

RIA Novosti

16/08/2007 16:33 TEL AVIV, August 16 (RIA Novosti) - The United States has signed an agreement with Israel under which it will provide its Mideast ally with $30 billion in military aid over the next ten years, a 25% rise on the current level.

A memorandum of understanding on the aid package was signed in Jerusalem Thursday by Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Israeli Foreign Minister Aharon Abramovitz.

The $3 billion annual payments will start in October 2008. Unlike other recipients of U.S. military aid, Israel will be authorized to convert 26.3% of the funds into local currency to be spent on the national arms industry, while the remainder will be used to buy U.S.-manufactured arms.

After the signing, Burns justified the record-high level of arms money, saying: "The United States faces many of the same threats from the same organizations and countries as Israel does, and so we felt this was the right level of assistance."

"There is no question that, from an American point of view, the Middle East is a more dangerous region now even than it was 10 or 20 years ago and that Israel is facing a growing threat," he told journalists.

The aid plans were agreed on by U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at their meeting in Washington in June.

The United States considers the main threats to Israel to be Iran, which it accuses of developing a nuclear weapons program, Syria, and militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories allegedly backed by the two Shia countries. Washington recently offered major hikes in military aid to "moderate" Sunni states in the Middle East with pro-U.S. leaderships.

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