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US State Dept approves sale of 3,000 smart bombs to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON: The United States State Department has approved the potential sale of 3,000 precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in a deal valued up to $290 billion, the Pentagon said.

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.”

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

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.