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WASHINGTON: The US State Department approved its first major arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under US President Joe Biden with the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

While Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the Middle East, US lawmakers have criticized Riyadh for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters. They have refused to approve many military sales for the kingdom without assurances US equipment would not be used to kill civilians.

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The Pentagon notified Congress of the sale on Thursday. If approved, the deal would be the first sale to Saudi Arabia since the Biden administration adopted a policy of selling only defensive weapons to the Gulf ally.

The State Department had approved the sale on Oct. 26, a spokesperson said, adding that the air-to-air missile sale comes after "an increase in cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia over the past year."

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