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Cheney says arms cutoff won't be used for peace talks leverage

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Sunday that the United States will not try to pressure Israel or Arab states into starting Middle East peace talks by cutting off arms supplies. "For us to be in the business of threatening our Israeli friends with an arms cutoff, for example, in order to get them to do something in the diplomatic arena, I think it would be counterproductive," he said in a speech to business leaders.

"I would think if we would do that with respect to our Egyptian friends, it would be counterproductive," he added.

Cheney arrived in Cairo on Friday from Israel, where he announced increased military aid to the Jewish state. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no extra military aid to Egypt was immediately forthcoming.

Sources said Egypt has asked for more U.S. F-16 warplanes, tanks, armed personnel carriers, Apache helicopters and artillery.

The defense secretary stressed that the United States was committed to its effort to start peace talks. Secretary of State James Baker has made five trips to the region in recent months, trying to arrange a regional peace conference.

Arab states want the conference to be held under the auspices of the United Nations and with the participation of the United States and the Soviet Union. Israel demands the presence of the United Nations only at the opening session and then insists on direct negotiations.