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US approves $2bn missile sale to UAE

State Department said the sale would benefit Washington, describing UAE as 'force for political stability' in Middle East
US-made Patriot missiles at Turkish air base (AFP)

The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 160 missiles to the United Arab Emirates for an estimated $2bn, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The UAE government has requested the purchase of 60 Patriot missiles with canisters and 100 Patriot guidance enhanced missiles, among other military equipment, according to a Department of Defense statement.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of an important ally which has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," it said.

Any major foreign weapons sale is subject to oversight by congress.

Sources in Washington revealed last week that the US is working to push through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia as well, including deals for fighter jets, missile defence systems and surface combat ships.

The UAE is a part of the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where it has lost dozens of soldiers.

The Saudi-led coalition has been criticised by rights groups for civilian casualties in Yemen. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also brought the impoverished country to the verge of famine.

The high civilian toll in the war has drawn scrutiny of continued US and British military support for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. The United States has provided aerial refuelling of coalition jets while the British defence industry has been an important supplier of aircraft and arms to the kingdom.