(Adds General Dynamics principal contractor, paragraph 6)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 Four U.S. senators introduced
a joint resolution on Thursday seeking to block the U.S. sale of
$1.15 billion of Abrams tanks and other military equipment to
Saudi Arabia, citing issues including the conflict in Yemen.
The measure was introduced by Republican Senators Rand Paul
and Mike Lee and Democrats Chris Murphy and Al Franken, the
latest indication of strong disapproval of the deal among some
"Selling $1.15 billion in tanks, guns, ammunition, and more
to a country with a poor human rights record embroiled in a
bitter war is a recipe for disaster and an escalation of an
ongoing arms race in the region," Paul said in a statement.
In August, 64 members of the House of Representatives signed
a letter urging President Barack Obama to delay the sale.
The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department
has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle
tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which
implements foreign arms sales, said that General Dynamics
would be the principal contractor for the sale.
Introducing the resolution, the senators cited the conflict
in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition in support
of forces loyal to the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu
Mansour Hadi who are trying to oust Iran-allied Houthi forces
from the capital, Sanaa.
Human rights groups have criticized the coalition's air
strikes because of the deaths of civilians.
"Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist
groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and ISIS, are getting
stronger. Until the Saudis' conduct changes, the U.S. should put
a pause on further arms sales," Murphy said in a statement.
Some congressional aides questioned whether Congress had the
right to try to block the sale, since it has been more than 30
days since Congress was notified about it.
But the four senators said the Arms Export Control Act of
1976 allows senators to force a vote on an arms sale by a
Human rights activists applauded the resolution.
"Congress' silence would signal to the Yemeni people that
U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is
unconditional - no matter how cruel the parties' methods of
warfare or how unwilling they are to make peace," Scott Paul,
senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America, said in a
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham,
Grant McCool and David Gregorio)