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U.S. plans controversial missile sale to Jordan
Updated: 2004-11-24 09:36

The U.S. Defense Department said on Tuesday it planned to sell Jordan 50 U.S.-made AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles in a deal valued at $39 million, despite a reported attempt by Israel to block the sale.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it notified Congress on Friday about the proposed sale, giving lawmakers 30 days to block the agreement.

The proposed sale includes 50 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles built by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. , 51 LAU-129 launchers and associated equipment.

"The proposed sale will enhance the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a key regional partner who has proven to be a vital force for political stability and peace in the Middle East," the agency said in a statement.

It said Jordan needed the missiles to enhance the air-to-air self-defense capability of its F-16 fighter jets and make it easier for Jordan's military to operate jointly with U.S forces.

Jordan in August criticized what it called Israel's "interference" in the proposed arms deal.

Israeli media had reported Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz asked the Pentagon to cancel the planned sale of the air-to-air missiles to Jordan.

Jordan has extensive commercial and political ties with Israel, with which it signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Israeli security sources said Jordan was not considered a major threat to the Jewish state and the AMRAAM was a weapon more than matched by the Israeli arsenal, according to the Israeli media reports.

But Israeli security chiefs fear the sale to Amman could encourage Egypt to make similar arms deals with Washington, tipping the strategic balance in the Middle East.

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