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UAE to turn elsewhere if Washington refuses to supply weapons it needs: Envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file picture shows a US Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet. (Photo by The Straits Times English-language daily newspaper)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to the United States says his country will be forced to turn elsewhere and acquire the weapons it needs in case Washington refuses to supply the Persian Gulf state with required munitions.

“We would rather have the best US-equipment or we will reluctantly find it from other sources, even if less capable,” Yousef al-Otaiba said in a statement on Thursday amid growing opposition and attempts to block Republican President Donald Trump’s $23 billion weapons sale to the Arab country.

Otaiba then sought to portray the multi-billion arms deal as an “investment in the US,” pointing out that the agreement would “support tens of thousands of US jobs, sustain the US defense industrial base, and lower future US research and development costs.”

The remarks came in response to a Twitter thread published a day earlier by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy in which he pointed to the UAE’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia in an atrocious military campaign against Yemen, where they “have killed thousands of civilians with US-made weapons.”

“In Libya, the UAE is in violation of the international arms embargo. And there’s evidence the UAE has illegally transferred US military equipment to extremist militias in Yemen,” he wrote.

“It begs the question why the US would reward this behavior with a record-setting arms sale agreement. At the very least, we should receive clear, unbreakable assurances that the UAE’s conduct in Libya and Yemen will change. That hasn’t happened,” the Democratic senator pointed out.

Murphy also expressed concerns that the sale could spark an arms race in the Middle East.

“In the classified briefing, Trump officials could not detail how our most sensitive technology — on the Reapers and our F-35 jets — will not find its way to Russia/China,” he added.

Senator Bob Menendez told reporters on Thursday that he expected lawmakers would vote as soon as next week on blocking Trump's massive UAE arms sale.

Menendez – together with Murphy and Republican senator Rand Paul – announced on November 18 that they would introduce measures seeking to halt the deal that would include advanced F-35 stealth fighters, drones and other weapons systems.

Menendez said he hoped more Republicans would support the resolutions.

On November 9, Amnesty International called on the United States to drop plans to sell sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to the UAE, saying that there is evidence of civilian deaths as a result of Abu Dhabi’s involvement in the Saudi war on Yemen and Libya.

Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said at the time that Washington must resolutely refrain from supplying the UAE with arms that could kill civilians in war-wracked Yemen and Libya.

“The startling fact that the United States government continues its unflinching support of providing weapons that risk adding to the devastating toll of Yemeni civilians unlawfully killed and injured by US-made weapons should shake to the core every person living in this country,” Nassif commented.

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