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US approves potential sale of weapons to Saudi, Kuwait

The US State Department has approved the potential sale of 3,000 precision guided munitions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a deal valued at up to $290 billion, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The sale comes in the final days of US President Donald Trump’s term. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest buyer of American weapons, in a bid to pressure Riyadh to end a war in Yemen that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The package would include 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions, containers, support equipment, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said.

“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions,” the Pentagon said in a statement. It added that “the size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage.”

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Tuesday. Members of Congress have been angered by steep civilian casualties in Yemen and earlier this year tried and failed to block the sale of F-35 warplanes to Riyadh.

Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

The Pentagon said Boeing Co was the prime contractor for the weapons.

The US State Department has also approved the potential sale to Kuwait of Apache helicopters and spare parts for the Patriot missile system in two separate deals that could have a value of $4.2 billion.

Kuwait’s government had asked to buy eight AH-64E Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters and the upgrade of 16 of their current AH-64D Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters to the AH-64E configuration, the Pentagon said.

If the deal comes to fruition it could have a value of $4 billion for the helicopters and $200 million towards spare parts and training for their upgraded Patriot missile defense systems, the Pentagon said in a statement. Source