Lebanon's premier blasts US military aid to Israel

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora criticized a proposed US arms deal Monday that offers a sharp increase in defense aid to Israel, a rare rebuke against Washington by the Western-backed premier. A statement issued by Saniora's office said he expressed "displeasure, surprise and astonishment" when he learned of US plans to increase military aid to Israel by 25 percent, from US$2.4 billion to US$3 billion per year, guaranteed for 10 years. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said the increase in military aid would guarantee the country's strategic superiority over its neighbors, irrespective of upgrades to Arab forces in the region. The US also plans to extend its aid commitment to Egypt for 10 years and sell Saudi Arabia an estimated US$20 billion of sophisticated weaponry, including advanced air systems that would greatly enhance the striking ability of Saudi warplanes.