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Russia confirms talks on arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia

RIA Novosti

17:53 03/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Saudi Arabia are holding talks on military-technical cooperation, which may include sales of military equipment to the Arab country, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

Russia's Kommersant newspaper has reported that Russia and Saudi Arabia discussed a number of deals worth an estimated $2 billion 18 months ago, when the country's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal visited Moscow.

"We are working in this direction, we can confirm this," Andrei Nesterenko said, adding that military-technical cooperation between the two countries is in Russia's interests and does not violate its international commitments in this sphere.

The diplomat refused to comment on the amount of the potential arms deals citing confidentiality in the negotiations.

"This is confidential information and I cannot add anything on the figures," Nesterenko said.

Saudi Arabia has traditionally bought only Western, mainly U.S.-made, civilian and military equipment, but has recently expressed an interest in acquiring Russian weaponry, including S-400 air defense systems, T-90 tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, and various types of helicopters.

Russian analysts linked the Saudi interest in Russian weapons with a change in the kingdom's political priorities and the difficulties it has encountered in purchasing weaponry from the West since the September 11 terrorist attacks, masterminded and performed mostly by Saudi citizens.

Saudi Arabia's defense budget currently exceeds $33 billion, and is expected to reach $44 billion in 2010.

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