US will preserve Israel's military deterrent: Gates
Apr 19, 2007 - 7:14:37 PM
Jerusalem, April 19 - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that US remains committed to preserving Israel's military edge over its neighbours, Israeli daily Ha'aretz's website reported.
The report said Gates' remarks were aimed at easing Israeli concerns about a planned American weapons sale to Gulf Arab allies.
Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv before his departure, Gates said he had urged Israeli leaders to look at the deal in terms of the overall strategic environment and stressed that Israel's neighbours have other alternatives for purchasing arms.
'I'm confident that the Russians would be very happy to sell weapons to countries in the region,' Gates was quoted by Ha'aretz as saying.
It said he affirmed the United States would continue to help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge.
According to Ha'aretz, Israeli officials objected to the US plan of selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other moderate Gulf states, fearing it would damage Israel's deterrent capabilities in the region.
Earlier in the day, Gates met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and discussed a series of regional issues, including issues in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians, as well as central issues regarding Israel-US relations.
Gates, who paid a 24-hour visit to Israel - the first by a US defence secretary in eight years - also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
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