Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Pushes Gulf Security and Aid for Syria

By ABC News

Mar 31, 2012 7:11am

ap hillary clinton arab nations lt 1203231 wblog Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Pushes Gulf Security and Aid for Syria

ABC News’ Reena Ninan reports:

RIYADH–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to discuss the sale of a number of missile-defense systems to Arab nations as a way to counter the looming Iranian threat.

Secretary Clinton will meet with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on Saturday to discuss a regional security plan.

“In order to protect the Gulf, no one nation can protect itself,” a senior US official said. “We are working to address missile defense in the region.”

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and patriot missile defense systems will likely be part of the “building blocks” for this new initiative. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait already possess some of these systems.

In 2011 the U.S. finalized the sale of THAAD missiles to UAE.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait already have Patriot missiles, along with deals in place to upgrade to modern missile-defense systems.

The idea behind establishing a new Strategic Cooperation Forum is meant to unite Gulf States instead of dealing with each country’s security issues solely on a one-on-one basis, according to U.S. officials.

The discussions on regional security come a day before 60 countries will gather in Turkey for the “Friends of Syria” conference.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are pushing the White House to arm Syrian rebels. But talk of a no-fly zone or even military intervention may be waning.

“The Americans said no weapons will go to the rebels, but what about communications devices or satellite coordinates so the opposition will  know where the Syrian tanks are?” a Saudi official told ABC News.

For now it appears the White House’s strategy will concentrate on getting a steady flow of humanitarian aid into Syria and attempting to end the bloodshed.

“Our main focus with partners is trying to get Assad’s guns silenced,” said a senior State Department official.

On Friday, Secretary Clinton also met with Saudi King Abdullah. The two discussed Iran and future sanctions that the country will face.

Clinton also discussed the need for Saudi Arabia to keep up oil production.

“Saudi Arabia won’t turn down any requests for oil from clients,” a senior Saudi official told ABC News. “We have two million barrels that can be switched on, but there is no demand for it.”

In a rare effort to publicly address the rise in oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, wrote an op-ed in Thursday’s Financial Times saying that there was no oil shortage and adding that there was also no rational reason why oil prices continue to remain high.

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