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Saudi Arabia military spending rises to $80bn: SIPRI report

Military spending in Saudi Arabia increased by 17 percent last year, according to the latest data from Swedish research body SIPRI. Total global arms expenditure was down slightly in 2014, at $1.8 trillion.

Global military spending fell by 0.4 percent last year, down for the third consecutive year, according to the annual report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Budget cuts in the United States and Western Europe were mostly offset by increases in Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. Spending in Latin America was roughly flat.

The report released on Monday showed that Saudi Arabia recorded the biggest annual hike of any of the top 15 military spenders. An increase of 17 percent took the Saudi spend to $80.8 billion (76.2 billion euros) in 2014. The Saudi government is currently leading a coalition of forces against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

China increased its military spending by 9.7 percent, up to an estimated $216 billion for 2014.

US remains world's top spender

"While total world military spending is mostly unchanged, some regions, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, are continuing to see rapid build-ups that are placing an increasingly high burden on many economies," said SIPRI program director Sam Perlo-Freeman.

"These increases partly reflect worsening security situations, but in many cases they are also the product of corruption, vested interests and autocratic governance," he added.

Although the United States reduced its military spending by 6.5 percent last year, it remains the world's top spender. The five major spenders in western Europe - France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain - have all budgeted for further, small cuts in 2015.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine had its effects as well. Ukraine increased spending by 20 percent last year and plans to more than double its military budget in 2015, according to SIPRI.

"The Ukraine crisis has fundamentally altered the security situation in Europe, but so far the impact on military spending is mostly apparent in countries bordering Russia," Perlo-Freeman said. "Elsewhere, austerity remains the main driver of downward spending trends."

jm/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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