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Trump vows to veto Saudi arms sales block

The conflict in Yemen has claimed tens of thousands of lives [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 June, 2019

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US President Donald Trump has promised to veto measures taken by the Senate to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
US President Donald Trump has promised to veto measures taken by the Senate to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid rising tensions in the Middle East.

The White House said stopping the sales "would send a message that the US is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing."

Saudi Arabia's controversial military campaign in Yemen suffered a double blow on Thursday as US lawmakers voted to block arms sales to Riyadh hours after Britain temporarily suspended similar sales.

In Washington, the Senate voted to prevent $8.1 billion in US arms in a symbolic bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump and his close ties with the kingdom.

Trump has promised to veto the measures. The White House said stopping the sales "would send a message that the US is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing."

A handful of Republicans joined Democrats in voting against 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

The votes were only assured this week when Republican leadership agreed to hold the sensitive roll calls on the arms sales, which critics say will aggravate the devastating war in Yemen.

Trump's administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sales in May, declaring Iran to be a "fundamental threat" to regional stability.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by Saudi Arabia's historic rival Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

But critics in the US and Britain have expressed concern about the devastating toll that the four-year Saudi bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen has taken on civilians.

"When they target civilians how can we continue to sell those arms?" Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, author of the resolutions, said on Thursday.

The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and triggered what the United Nations describes as the world's worst existing humanitarian crisis.


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