Saudi Arabia, Iran Discuss Bilateral Cooperation

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Following the Obama administration's announcement on Wednesday of a $60 billion military aircraft sale to Saudi Arabia, Saudi King Abdullah spoke with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, AFP reported.

"In this telephone call, the two heads of state discussed boosting bilateral cooperation, as well as recent developments in the region and in the international scene," Iran's state-controlled news agency, IRNA, stated, according to AFP.

The two leaders had spoken before the Iranian president's first official state visit to Lebanon last week, where he repeated his promise to wipe Israel off the map.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told reporters Israel would be neither surprised nor concerned about the deal.

"We think it will enhance regional security and stability rather than diminish it," Shapiro said at a press conference following the sale's announcement.

"We have consulted with Israel as this sale has taken shape. Based on what we've heard at high levels, Israel does not object to this sale," he said.

Shapiro said the sale wasn't "solely about Iran."

"It's about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs. They live in a dangerous neighborhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security," he said.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs Alexander Vershbow said the sale would allow the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to cooperate on shared security concerns in the region.

The U.S. is also working on a deal to sell the THAAD missile defense system to the United Arab Emirates and expects to do the same with the Saudis.

In addition to the F-15s and THAAD missiles, the Saudis are negotiating an estimated $30 billion upgrade to its navy.


Haaretz contributed to this report.

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