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Republican U.S. Senate leader urges support for Trump's massive UAE arms sale

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks through the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate’s Republican leader on Tuesday urged lawmakers to vote against a resolution, expected as soon as this week, to block President Donald Trump’s $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates, which he called a crucial partner in the first against terrorists.

“It’s a little baffling to suggest that, now of all times, a protest gesture with no chance of obtaining a veto-proof majority is a valuable use of the Senate’s time. But above and beyond that, the strategic realities dictate that Congress should not stand in the way of this sale,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as he opened the Senate.

The Trump administration told Congress on Nov. 10 that it had approved the sale to the UAE of products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp. The deal includes the F-35, the world’s most advanced fighter jet; more than 14,000 bombs and munitions; and the second-largest sale of U.S. drones to a single country.

U.S. law requires congressional review of major arms deals, and lets senators force votes on resolutions of disapproval. A group of Republicans and Democrats had said they would introduce such resolutions as soon as this week.

But to become effective, they must pass the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House of Representatives, and garner two-thirds majorities in both chambers to survive Trump’s veto.

Critics said the Trump administration, seeking to rush the sale as it brokered a peace deal between the UAE and Israel, provided too little information, including about effects on the balance of power in the Middle East and safeguards to ensure the weapons not end up in the wrong hands.

Past measures to block Trump’s arms deals have passed the House and Senate, but failed to get enough Republican backing to override the Republican president’s vetoes.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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