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UAE arms deals: US moving forward with sales amid review

Biden administration says the pause on arms sale was routine for a new administration when coming into power
Some US congressmen fear the UAE is using America-made weapons in Yemen's civil war (Reuters)

The US will proceed to sell more than $23bn worth of arms to the United Arab Emirates after pausing deals agreed with the previous administration in order to conduct a review of the sale. 

A State Department spokesperson on Tuesday said the Biden administration would proceed to sell arms to the UAE as it continues to review details and consult with Emirati officials on the use of the weapons. 

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President Joe Biden had paused selling arms to the UAE under deals made by former president Donald Trump, saying his administration would review the sale, which was agreed upon right before his predecessor left office. 

The $23.37bn package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

In November, the Trump administration told Congress it had approved the US sale to the UAE as part of the US-brokered normalisation deal signed between the UAE and Israel in September.

Attempts to stop arms sales to the UAE failed in December as Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress backed his plans.

Some Congress members accused the UAE of using US-made weapons in the war in Yemen. Others feared it violated Washington's guarantee that Israel will maintain a military advantage in the Middle East. Israel, however, said it did not object to the sales.

The Trump administration then finalised the massive sale to the UAE on 20 January, about an hour before Biden was sworn in as president.

The Biden administration announced the review in late January. The UAE said it had anticipated the review and welcomed joint efforts to de-escalate tensions and renew regional dialogue.

The State Department spokesperson said the estimated delivery dates on the UAE sales, if implemented, were for after 2025 or later.

"We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of US defence articles and services that US-origin defence equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict," the State Department said in a statement.

The Biden administration is also reviewing its policy for military sales to Saudi Arabia, including some Trump-era weapons deals, in light of the Saudi involvement in Yemen and other human rights concerns.

It has not released the results of that review. In February, US officials told Reuters the administration was considering cancelling past deals that posed human rights concerns and limiting future sales to "defensive" weapons.