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US Announces $1 Billion in Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia


FILE - U.S. Marines tend to a row of parked humvees with TOW anti-tank missile launchers mounted on them at a desert camp in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, Jan. 26, 1991.

The State Department approved nearly $1 billion in new arms sales for Saudi Arabia as the kingdom's crown prince continued his American tour.

Congress was notified Thursday of the deal, which includes a $670 million sale of more than 6,600 TOW anti-tank missiles and a $300 million sale of spare vehicle parts for the Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps.

"This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military sales, said.

Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of American-made weapons, and the United States sees the country as an ally in the fight against al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

A Houthi militant shows damage at the site of a Saudi-led airstrike, north of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, March 8, 2018.
A Houthi militant shows damage at the site of a Saudi-led airstrike, north of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, March 8, 2018.

Some critics of the kingdom have raised concerns about arms sales to Riyadh as its forces remain involved in Yemen's three-year civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Critics have condemned Saudi Arabia for airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen.

But during a meeting Thursday with the Saudi crown prince at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave Riyadh a vote of confidence.

"We believe that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution,'' Mattis said. "They have stood by the United Nations-recognized government, and we are going to end this war. That is the bottom line. And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.''

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