U.S. leads world in foreign weapons sales: report

WASHINGTON Sun Sep 6, 2009 7:38pm EDT

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath, United Kingdom (UK) releases a GBU-28 ''Bunker Buster'' 5,000-pound Laser-Guided Bomb over the Utah Test and Training Range during a weapons evaluation test hosted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron (FWS) from Eglin Air ForceBase, Florida, in this August 5, 2003 photograph, obtained by Reuters on August 2, 2009. REUTERS/Technical Sgt. Michael Ammons/USAF/Handout

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath, United Kingdom (UK) releases a GBU-28 ''Bunker Buster'' 5,000-pound Laser-Guided Bomb over the Utah Test and Training Range during a weapons evaluation test hosted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron (FWS) from Eglin Air ForceBase, Florida, in this August 5, 2003 photograph, obtained by Reuters on August 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Technical Sgt. Michael Ammons/USAF/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States accounted for more than two-thirds of foreign weapons sales in 2008, a year in which global sales were at a three-year low, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Citing a congressional study released on Friday, the Times said the United States was involved in 68.4 percent of the global sales of arms.

U.S. weapons sales jumped nearly 50 percent in 2008 despite the global economic recession to $37.8 billion from $25.4 billion the year before.

The jump defied worldwide trends as global arms sales fell 7.6 percent to $55.2 billion in 2008, the report said. Global weapons agreements were at their lowest level since 2005.

Italy, the second ranked country, amassed only $3.7 billion in arms sales, while Russia ranked third with sales falling to $3.5 billion in 2008, down from $10.8 billion in 2007.

The report attributed the increase in U.S. sales to "major new orders from clients in the Near East and in Asia" as well as to continued contracts for equipment and support services with globally based U.S. clients, the Times said.

The United States also led in arms sales to the developing world, signing 70.1 percent of these weapons agreements at a value of $29.6 billion in 2008, the report said.

Such deals with the developing world included a $6.5 billion air defense system for the United Arab Emirates, a $2.1 billion jet fighter for Morocco and a $2 billion attack helicopter for Taiwan.

India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Korea and Brazil also reached weapons deals with the United States, the Times said.

The report revealed the United Arab Emirates was the top buyer of arms in the developing world with $9.7 billion in arms purchases in 2008.

Saudi Arabia ranked second with $8.7 billion in weapons agreements, and Morocco was third with $5.4 billion in deals.

(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Chris Wilson)