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SHARM EL-SHEIKH - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Egypt yesterday with promises of weapons for allies in the Middle East, saying it would help counter Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
Rice, pictured, and Gates, who are also due to visit Saudi Arabia, planned to urge their Arab friends to do more to help the US over Iraq but dismissed suggestions that arms worth tens of billions of dollars were a quid pro quo to get that assistance.
The military aid package on offer to Egypt is about R92billion over 10 years, the same level as for at least the last six years. But Washington is offering Israel an increase of about 25percent - to about R213billion over the next 10 years.
"This is not an issue of quid pro quo. We are working with these states to fight back extremism," said Rice.
"We all have the same interest in a stable Iraq that can defend itself . and be unified."
The US has repeatedly sought Arab help with Iraq though its Arab allies have little or no say in the region. Saudi Arabia has some weight with Sunni Arab tribal leaders.
Privately, Bush administration officials are increasingly frustrated at Saudi Arabia's attitude towards the Iraqi government, whichi is dominated by Shiite Muslims linked with Iran, but Rice sought to play down that criticism.
She praised Saudi Arabia for offering debt relief to Baghdad and for attempting to better secure its border with Iraq.
The US military package includes weapons for Saudi Arabia and the other conservative Gulf countries. - Reuters