US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has started a Middle East tour, aimed at uniting Washington’s allies against the influence of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Earlier, the US announced multi-billion euro arms deals for friendly regimes in the region. It denies it is trying to shift the military balance. “The United States is determined to assure our allies that we are going to be reliable in helping them to meet their security needs,” Rice said in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. “We have a lot of interests in common in this region in the fight against terrorism and extremism. “And I want to emphasise that there is a very active and intensive diplomatic process in place too, that that diplomatic process would be accompanied by efforts to help our allies defend themselves against any threats. It is a positive agenda. It is not aimed at anyone.” Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are earmarked for the US military aid package. Egypt, too, is a key beneficiary, as is Israel. Iran has accused the United States of trying to destabilise the region. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said the move is also aimed at saving US arms manufacturers from bankruptcy. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is also in the Middle East amid efforts to encourage Arab allies to do more to stabilise Iraq.
Arab alliance-building tour by Rice, Gates