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Washington pledges robust defense for GCC

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US President Barack Obama on Thursday updated leaders from Gulf states on international efforts to forge a nuclear deal with Iran, said Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser.

Rhodes said the US would welcome support from Gulf countries for the deal, which many Arab leaders are concerned would empower Iran to work in destabilizing ways in the region.

The White House said the first day of the summit focused on the Iranian nuclear deal. To go through the details of nuclear talks with Iran, Obama brought along his secretaries of treasury, state, energy as well as CIA director — and former Riyadh station chief — John Brennan.

The summit discussed prospects of speedy US military assistance for the Gulf countries including missile defense systems, the White House said. “We have received requests from the GCC states to get more weapons even before the summit,” a White House spokesman said.

He emphasized that the US would continue its efforts to strengthen the defense capabilities of GCC countries.

Obama is expected to offer the GCC countries more military assistance, including increased joint exercises and coordination on ballistic missile systems.

Rhodes said Obama and Gulf leaders would discuss strategies for Syria. The White House is open to evaluating the option of a no-fly zone to help resolve the Syrian conflict, Rhodes said, although he said the measure is not seen as a viable way to address fighting in urban areas.

Just two heads of state are among those meeting Obama, with other nations sending lower-level but still influential representatives.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman was skipping the summit. The heads of the UAE and Oman have had health problems and were not making the trip. Bahrain’s royal court announced Wednesday that rather than travel to Washington, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa would be attending a horse show and meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

The Gulf summit comes as the US and five other nations work to reach an agreement with Iran by the end of June to curb its nuclear efforts in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. The Gulf nations fear that an easing of sanctions will only facilitate Iran’s aggression.

The White House says a nuclear accord could clear the way for more productive discussions with Iran about its reputed terror links. Arab News

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