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Trump administration notifies Congress of arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Deal includes sale of 7,500 precision-guided missiles to kingdom, valued at $478m, Bloomberg reports
The move will give Raytheon a licence to sell weapons directly to the Saudi government
Move will give Raytheon licence to sell weapons directly to Saudi government (AFP/File photo)
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The US State Department notified Congress that it is moving forward with the sale of 7,500 precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, valued at $478m, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

The news outlet reported that the State Department will issue a licence to weapons manufacturer Raytheon to sell the missiles directly to the Saudi government, and the deal will be completed before President Donald Trump leaves office on 20 January.

The weapons in the pending sale include Raytheon's Paveway IV "smart bomb," which includes technology that allows for all-weather attacks.

Last year, the Trump administration approved an $8.1bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, declaring an "emergency" in order to bypass Congress and make the sale.

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The sale of the weapons was heavily criticised by rights groups, who said they were being used by Riyadh in the war in Yemen, a country facing what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

An investigation by the New York Times found many US officials feared they could be arrested and charged with war crimes over the sale while travelling abroad.

The notification to Congress, sent late on Tuesday, comes just a month before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Biden has vowed to reassess Washington's relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Retired four-star general Lloyd Austin, Biden's pick as defence secretary, has served on Raytheon's board since 2016.

The Trump administration also recently approved an arms sale to the UAE, which included advanced killer drones, F-35 jets and $10bn of munitions.

That sale was also criticised by rights groups over Abu Dhabi's actions in Libya and Yemen, with Human Rights Watch calling for a US arms embargo on the UAE in a statement that also dismissed the the Gulf country's normalisation agreement with Israel as a justification for the weapons deal.