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The US State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armoured recovery vehicles and other equipment, worth about $1.15bn, to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The approval for land force equipment comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition in support of Yemeni forces loyal to the exiled government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who are trying to oust Houthi rebels from the capital, Sanaa. The coalition's air strikes have come under criticism from rights groups for the deaths of civilians.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said that General Dynamics will be the principal contractor for the sale, adding it would contribute to US national security by improving the security of a regional partner.

"This sale will increase the Royal Saudi Land Force's (RSLF) interoperability with US forces and conveys US commitment to Saudi Arabia's security and armed forces modernization," the agency said in a notice to lawmakers posted on its website.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare.

On Tuesday the Saudi-led military coalition conducted air strikes on Sanaa for the first time in five months, residents said, after UN-backed peace talks to end the conflict broke down over the weekend.

Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a food factory in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa killed 14 workers on Tuesday, medics said.

Factory director Abdullah al-Aqel gave a higher toll of 16 killed and 10 wounded, adding that all the victims were workers.

The Al-Aqel factory, which makes potato chips and is near a military equipment maintenance centre targeted in the raids, was struck during working hours, he added.

The strikes are the first by the Saudi-led coalition in three months, following the suspension of UN-brokered peace talks.

 

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