Saudi was top buyer of U.S. arms in 2005-08

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:50pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia was the biggest buyer of U.S. weapons during a four-year span with $11.2 billion in deals, followed by the United Arab Emirates with $10 billion, the U.S. Congressional Research Service said in a new report.

The tally reflected the value of U.S. "defense articles and defense services" sold from January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2008, under the Foreign Military Sales program, which covers U.S. government-to-government deals.

Next on the Congressional Research Service's list were Australia, with $6.4 billion; Egypt, $5.2 billion; Pakistan, $4.5 billion and Iraq, $3.5 billion, according to the "U.S. Arms Sales" report, dated December 2.

Filling out the top 10 buyers in the period were South Korea, $3.1 billion; Japan, $3 billion; Israel, $2.7 billion; and Morocco, $2.5 billion, the research service said.

It cited data compiled by the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which brokers such deals.

In the previous 2001-04 period, the top buyer was Egypt, with $5.2 billion; followed by Saudi Arabia, $4.1 billion; Poland, $4.0 billion; Israel, $3.2 billion; and South Korea, $2.9 billion, said the report, which was made public during the annual Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.

Japan, $2.1 billion; Britain, $1.9 billion; Kuwait, $1.7 billion, Greece, $1.4 billion; and Italy, $1.2 billion rounded out the top 10 buyers from 2001 to 2004.

In 2008 alone, the United Arab Emirates was the top U.S. client, with $8.9 billion in arms deals. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, $7.8 billion; Morocco, $2.4 billion; Iraq, $2 billion and Egypt, $1.3 billion, said the report by Richard Grimmett, the service's resident arms-trade expert.

Completing the list last year was Taiwan, $1.3 billion; South Korea, $1.2 billion; India, $1 billion; Israel, $1 billion and Canada, $820 million, the report showed.

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(Reporting by Jim Wolf, editing by Matthew Lewis)