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U.S. Discusses Selling Antimissile Systems to Gulf Nations Collectively

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, attends a meeting with Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan, left, on Friday in Manama, Bahrain. Hagel over the weeked proposed selling U.S. missile defense systems to the Gulf Cooperation Council as a block (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, attends a meeting with Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan, left, on Friday in Manama, Bahrain. Hagel over the weeked proposed selling U.S. missile defense systems to the Gulf Cooperation Council as a block (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The U.S. Defense secretary over the weekend outlined a proposal to export antimissile systems to the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to encourage greater missile-defense cooperation in the Persian Gulf, Defense News reported.

Washington would like to see the individual members of the GCC block -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- agree to stitch together their respective antimissile capabilities to create a regional shield, similar to one being built by NATO in Europe, in order to counter possible ballistic-missile attacks by Iran. But achieving this goal has been difficult as Persian Gulf nations have been leery of such collaboration, leaving the U.S. military to conduct antimissile activities in the region mostly on a bilateral basis.

"We would like to expand our security cooperation with partners in the region by working in a coordinated way with the GCC, including through the sales of U.S. defense articles through the GCC as an organization," Chuck Hagel said at a speech at the international Manama Dialogue. "This is a natural next step in improving U.S.-GCC collaboration, and it will enable the GCC to acquire critical military capabilities, including items for ballistic-missile defense, maritime security, and counterterrorism."

The Defense Department "will better integrate with GCC members to enhance missile-defense capabilities in the region," the Defense secretary said, noting that "the United States continues to believe that a multilateral approach is the best answer for missile defense."

The idea behind selling radars and missile sensors collectively to the Gulf Cooperation Council is to improve the member states' ability to exchange information with one another and plan courses of action more quickly, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have already made significant missile-defense purchases from the United States. Oman, Kuwait and Qatar have also bought U.S. antimissile systems.

Hagel proposed holding the first of an envisioned annual series of meetings of Gulf defense ministers within six months.

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