FIXED – US State Department approves potential sale of 3,000 smart bombs to Saudi Arabia

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(Billions to million changes in the first paragraph)

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, Dec.29 (Reuters) – The US State Department has approved the potential sale of 3,000 precision-guided munitions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a deal valued at $ 290 million, announced Tuesday the Pentagon.

The sale comes in the final days of US President Donald Trump’s tenure. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the largest US arms buyer in the Middle East, in a bid to pressure Riyadh to end the a war in Yemen that caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The package would include 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) ammunition, containers, support materials, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said.

“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s ability to deal with current and future threats by increasing its stockpiles of long-range precision air-to-surface munitions,” the Pentagon said in a statement. He added that “the size and precision of the SDB I allow efficient ammunition with less collateral damage.”

The Pentagon’s Defense and Security Cooperation Agency informed Congress of the possible sale on Tuesday. Members of Congress were angered by the high number of civilian casualties in Yemen and earlier this year tried unsuccessfully to block the sale of F-35 warplanes to Riyadh.

Despite State Department approval, the notification does not indicate that a contract was signed or that negotiations were successful.

The Pentagon has said Boeing Co is the main contractor for the arms. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, DC; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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