Rights groups fear $1bn US, Saudi arms deal will hit Yemen

Saudi crown prince reportedly bragged he had Jared Kushner 'in his pocket'

Jared Kushner, tasked by his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump, with mediating Middle East peace early in the administration, has so far staked a bulk of those efforts on the ascendant Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

When Kushner, Trump's senior aide, made an unannounced trip to Riyadh a year ago, the Intercept - citing three sources - reported Wednesday, MBS told confidants after the meeting that Kushner had discussed Saudi leaders who are disloyal to the crown prince. After his visit to Washington, Prince Mohammed will embark on a nationwide tour, visiting New York, Boston, oil hub Houston, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

Trump, touching on the sensitive shaking-out happening inside the kingdom, said "some tremendous things have happened since your last visit to the White House". "[A sale of $300 million] for common spares/repair parts to support Saudi Arabia's fleet of M1A2 Abrams tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, M198 Towed Howitzers, additional support, and other related elements of logistics and program support", the second release said. "And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula".

During Senate debate before the vote, some backers called the three-year-long conflict in Yemen a humanitarian catastrophe, which they blamed on the Saudis.

Just hours after the prince left the White House, the U.S. Senate rejected a bipartisan bid created to withdraw U.S. intelligence and reconnaissance support for the war. He said Washington was working with Saudi Arabia and other involved nations to find a political solution in the country wracked by civil war.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said after the meeting that Mattis and Prince Mohammed did not discuss civilian casualties except when it had been brought up by a reporter.

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The prince "was supportive of finding ways to help the reconciliation", she added.

Later on Thursday, Washington formally approved defense contracts totalling more than $1 billion with Saudi Arabia.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia commenced airstrikes in Yemen after Houthi rebels drove the internationally-recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

The State Department said the package includes up to about 6,700 US -made anti-tank missiles, along with servicing, maintanence and parts for helicopters and tanks already in the kingdom's arsenal.

According to the SIPRI report, which was released last week, Saudi Arabia increased its arms purchases by 225 percent over the past five years, importing 98 percent of its weapons from the USA and European Union countries.

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