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US weapons sales tripled in 2011

WASHINGTON — Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions, according to a new study for Congress.

Overseas weapons sales by the US totaled $66.3 billion last year, or nearly 78 percent of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

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The American weapons sales total was an ‘‘extraordinary increase’’ over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of US arms exports. The previous high was in 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to purchase American weapons at record levels. These gulf states do not share a border with Iran, and their arms purchases focused on expensive warplanes and complex missile defense systems.

The report was prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress. The annual study is considered the most detailed collection of unclassified arms sales data available to the public. To compare weapons sales over various years, the study used figures in 2011 dollars, with amounts for previous years adjusted for inflation to provide a consistent measurement.

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