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State Department approves Saudi Arabia weapons sales

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  • State Department approves Saudi Arabia weapons sales

    The State Department has approved resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia previously blocked by Barack Obama.

    A multi-million dollar technology for Riyadh was blocked by the former President during the final months of his administration over human rights concerns.

    Saudi Arabia is leading a mostly Arab coalition targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen with air strikes.

    An annual report by UN experts who monitor the conflict in Yemen seen by Reuters said the Saudi led coalition had carried out attacks that may amount to war crimes accusations Riyadh rejects.

    By approving the measure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have given an indication the Trump administration will seek closer ties with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war. Officials say the deal will need White House approval to go into effect.

    Last year, Mr Obamas administration approved a $1.15bn deal for the sale of tanks and armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

    The deal was opposed by more than 60 members of the House of Representatives who signed a letter calling for Mr Obama to delay.

    However in his final months in office Mr Obama decided to halt the current deal on precision-guided military technology.

    Yemen has been divided by nearly two years of civil war that pits the Iran allied Houthi group against a Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

    At least 10 000 people have been killed in the fighting that has unleashed a humanitarian crisis on the impoverished country.

    If the White House agrees with the State Department's position the administration would notify Congress about the intended sale, where it could encounter resistance.