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Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

White House pushes for Bahrain F-16 deal

White House pushes for Bahrain F-16 deal

If finalised, the approval would allow Bahrain to purchase 19 of the jets, plus improvements to other jets in its fleet.

Congress could block the sale, though it is unlikely to do so given the Republican majority's strong support for the sale.

The upgrades will include 23 engines, radars, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and other related equipment.

The State Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

The decision on Bahrain highlights the Trump administration's outreach to traditional Gulf Arab allies, which the White House sees as a bulwark against Iranian expansion and a partner in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Tillerson earlier this month drew criticism for not personally presenting the State Department's annual human rights report, which faulted Bahrain for limiting citizens' abilities to peacefully choose their government as well as for restrictive policies on free speech, assembly and association. Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group has been dismantled. A Bahraini court on Thursday found three people guilty of forming a terrorist cell and receiving Iranian funding aimed at destabilising the kingdom, a judicial source said.

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"This type of conditionality would be unprecedented and counterproductive to maintaining security cooperation and ultimately addressing human rights issues", he said in the statement.

The State Department notification kicks off a 40-day review by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, though it could be shorter if everyone of the committee clears the sale, or longer if a member places a hold on it.

On the same day, the commander of United States forces in the Middle East, Army General Joseph Votel, told a congressional committee that human rights conditions on foreign arms sales to allies could damage military ties.

Gen Votel, who heads the US Central Command, singled out Bahrain as an example.

The State Department notified Congress that it has lifted the restrictions to green light a $2.8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets and other arms, The New York Times reported.

The notice also came the same day that the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Army General Joseph Votel, told a House committee that foreign arms sales to allies shouldn't be burdened with preconditions tied to human rights because they could damage military-to-military ties.

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