Global arms spend hits $1.12 trillion in 2005: report

(Reuters) - U.S. spending in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to help push global military expenditure further up in 2006 after hitting $1.12 trillion a year earlier, a research body said on Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its latest yearbook that the United States was behind 48 percent of total world arms spending in 2005 and had accounted for most of the year's 3.5 percent overall gain.

Several states, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, have used a sharp rise in oil prices to boost military spending. The biggest increase worldwide was in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia, which surged by more than 140 percent to $146 million.

"Looking ahead, increasing trends in world military expenditure show little sign of abating in the near future," the Swedish government-funded institute said.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom were all involved in costly overseas operations while China was carrying out a modernization of its People's Liberation Army.

"In these circumstances, there is a strong likelihood that the current upward trend in world military spending will be sustained in 2006," SIPRI added.

Britain, France, Japan and China accounted for 4 to 5 percent each of world arms spending, which overall equaled 2.5 percent of world gross domestic product, or $173 per capita.

RAW MATERIALS FUEL RISES

A process of concentration of spending continued in 2005, it added, as 15 countries with the highest spending accounted for 84 percent of the world total.

The global rise in raw materials' prices helped some countries spend more on weapons, particularly Algeria, Azerbaijan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

China and India also increased spending, the institute said.

"In absolute terms, their current spending is only a fraction of the USA's. Their increases are largely commensurate with their economic growth," it added.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia boosted its military spending by $4.6 billion in 2005 to $25 billion. This increase meant that the Middle East as a whole showed a rise in defense outlays, which would otherwise have fallen, the institute said.

Arms spending in Iran also rose in 2005 by around 3.9 percent to $7 billion.

Elsewhere in the world, the institute noted massive arms spending rises in the Caucasus, with Georgia leading the region with 143 percent. Azerbaijan came next with 51 percent and Armenia with nearly 23 percent.

The institute said that the official explanation for Georgia's large rise in spending was a wish to join NATO, while others argued that Tbilisi wanted to regain control over the renegade regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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