U.S. arms sales increase

Sept. 14, 2008 at 5:55 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The White House is lining up arms deals to provide weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan and help contain threats from Iran and North Korea, officials say.

The U.S. Defense Department has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, The New York Times reported Sunday.

By comparison, in 2005, the Pentagon agreed to sell or transfer $12 billion in weaponry, the newspaper reported.

"This is not about being gunrunners," said Bruce Lemkin, the Air Force deputy undersecretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. "This is about building a more secure world."

The Times said the United States is facing competition from Russia and elsewhere in Europe, including continuing contests for multibillion-dollar deals to sell fighter jets to India and Brazil.

The newspaper said about 60 countries get combined annual military aid from the United States totaling $4.5 billion a year to buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80 percent of that aid.

"Sure, this is a quick and easy way to cement alliances," said William Hartung, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute. "But this is getting out of hand."

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