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Trump asks Saudi crown prince to share kingdom's wealth by buying more American weapons

  • President Donald Trump focused on the tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in remarks before a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Trump asked the crown prince to share his nation's wealth and create American jobs by purchasing more weapons.
  • The request comes amid a bipartisan effort to limit U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday implored Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince to share his nation's wealth by continuing to purchase American-made weapons.

Trump's focus on Saudi purchases of U.S. military equipment came amid a bipartisan effort to limit the United States' role in Yemen's civil war and protests in several U.S. cities over the Saudi-led invasion, which has contributed to a humanitarian crisis.

In opening remarks before a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump crowed about the sales, running through a list of $12.5 billion in approved arms purchases by Saudi Arabia and previewing billions more to come.

"Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they're going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world," Trump said.

"There's nobody even close, as I said before, when it comes to the missiles and the planes and all of the military equipment," Trump said. "There's nobody that even comes close to us in terms of technology and the quality of the equipment, and Saudi Arabia appreciates that."

President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman meet at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman meet at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a bill in February to withdraw U.S. armed forces from the Yemen conflict, where they have provided limited intelligence and refueling for warplanes. The Senate is poised to vote on the measure on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, antiwar demonstrations were held in Washington and New York City. Additional protests are planned in Boston to coincide with Crown Prince Mohammed's multi-city visit to the United States.

The crown prince spearheaded the invasion of Yemen shortly after being named minister of defense in 2015. The conflict has dragged on for three years, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest nation.

Trump said the U.S.-Saudi relationship had improved from the days of the Obama administration, which halted some arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns about civilian deaths in Yemen. President Barack Obama also angered the Saudis by negotiating a nuclear agreement with their regional rival, Iran.

Prior to his visit, Mohammed told CBS' "60 Minutes" that Saudi Arabia would immediately seek to obtain a nuclear weapon if Iran developed one.

After discussing the arms sales, Trump suggested that the United States could soon extricate itself from Middle East conflicts after years of involvement in Iraq and Syria. He noted that the United States and its allies have clawed back territory in those two nations from the so-called Islamic State.

"We'll be able to get out of certain areas that we've wanted to get out of for a long period of time, and other countries can handle it," he said. "At this point, they'll be able to handle it."

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