1st LD Writethru: U.S., Qatar sign 11-bln-dollar arms deal

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. and Qatar have signed an arms deal on Qatar's purchase of U.S. Patriot defense systems and Apache helicopters to the tune of 11 billion dollars, the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement on Monday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted Qatar's Minister of State for Defense Affairs Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah at the Pentagon Monday to sign letters of offer and acceptance for Apache helicopters and Patriot and Javelin defense systems worth of 11 billion dollars, according to the statement.

"Today's signing ceremony underscores the strong partnership between the United States and Qatar in the area of security and defense and will help improve our bilateral cooperation across a range of military operations," said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in the statement.

Secretary Hagel also used the meeting to express his appreciation for the support that Qatar provides U.S. forces in the country. "Today's visit followed Secretary Hagel's visit to Doha last fall, where he met with al-Attiyah to sign and renew the U.S.-Qatar Defense Cooperation Agreement," Kirby said.

"This is a critically important relationship in the region," the official said, adding that the secretary is pleased to be able to continue to make U.S.-Qatar ties stronger.

The weapons deal was the biggest for the United States in 2014 and would enhance its security and diplomatic ties with Qatar, to counter the threat across the Gulf from Iran, military experts noted.