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U.S. senators move to block $650 mln arms sale to Saudi Arabia

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(Last Updated On: November 19, 2021)

A group of U.S. senators are opposing the Biden administration’s first major arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over Riyadh’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen, three senators announced on Thursday, Reuters reported.

A joint resolution of disapproval to block a proposed $650 million in U.S. arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was introduced by Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee, as well as Bernie Sanders who caucuses with Democrats.

While many U.S. lawmakers consider Saudi Arabia an important partner in the Middle East, they have criticized the country 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 U.S. equipment would not be used to kill civilians.

According to the report activists have said Saudi Arabia has lobbied heavily against extending a mandate of United Nation investigators who have documented possible war crimes in Yemen by both the Riyadh-led coalition and the Houthi movement.

The package which was approved by the State Department would include 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRL) along with containers and support equipment, spare parts, U.S. government and contractor engineering and technical support.

In a statement Paul said, “this sale that could accelerate an arms race in the Middle East and jeopardize the security of our military technologies.”

“As the Saudi government continues to wage its devastating war in Yemen and repress its own people, we should not be rewarding them with more arms sales,” said Sanders in the joint statement.

Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) makes the missiles, read the report.

The Biden administration has said it adopted a policy of selling only defensive weapons to the Gulf ally.

When the State Department approved the sale a spokesman said the sale “is fully consistent with the administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen.” The air-to-air missiles ensure “Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks,” he said.

State Department approval of a sale is not necessarily the indication of a signed contract, Reuters reported.

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Pakistan receives $3 billion loan from Saudi Arabia

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Pakistan on Saturday received a $3 billion loan from Saudi Arabia, the prime minister’s finance adviser said, as part of an economic support package.

The South Asian country has faced growing economic challenges, with high inflation, sliding forex reserves, a widening current account deficit and a depreciating currency, Reuters reported.

Pakistan’s total liquid foreign reserves stand at $22,498.8 million, based on central bank data.

Shaukat Tarin, finance adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, said in a tweet: “I want to thank His Excellency Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the kind gesture.”

The loan from Saudi Arabia will be for one year at a 4% interest rate under the terms of the package, which was signed last month, Reuters reported.

“This is positive news … and will help bolster both the foreign exchange reserves and sentiments in the forex market,” Saad Hashemy, executive director at BMA Capital said.

The loan comes a week after the International Monetary Fund agreed with Pakistan on measures needed to revive a stalled $6 billion funding program.

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Uzbekistan’s Samarkand city named 2023 World Tourism Capital

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Uzbekistan’s historic city of Samarkand was chosen as the 2023 World Tourism Capital at the 24th General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Spain, Uzbekistan’s Tourism and Sports Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Samarkand will host the 25th General Assembly of the UNWTO, which will be a “historic event” as it marks the first time in history that the gathering will be held in Uzbekistan, read the statement.

The summit in Madrid was attended by a delegation led by Uzbekistan’s Tourism and Sports Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister.

The opportunity to host a UN organization meeting for the first time is the result of the Uzbek government’s policies and efforts to develop tourism in the country, the statement added.

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Russia, Southeast Asia conclude first joint naval exercise

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2021)

Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have concluded their first joint naval exercise, Indonesia’s navy said on Saturday, as the region faces rising tensions with China.

The three-day exercise off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island aimed at increasing interoperability between the ASEAN member states and the Russian navy in the strategic maritime area. It comes amid rising tensions between major powers in the South China Sea, a resource-rich waterway of geopolitical significance, Reuters reported.

“The exercise has a strategic impact because it was designed to cultivate friendships between the Indonesian government, ASEAN countries and Russia,” the navy said.

The two-stage drills involved eight warships and four aircraft from Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei.

Aleksei Bolotnikov, commander of the Russian warship Admiral Panteleyev, was quoted as saying he hoped the next ASEAN-Russia exercise could take place in Vladivostok, Reuters reported.

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