US to allow sales of armed drones

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The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that for the first time it would permit the export of armed drones to allies.

“The United States is committed to stringent standards for the sale, transfer, and subsequent use of U.S.-origin military” unmanned aerial systems, the State Department said in a statement.

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The agency said it would assess exports on a “case-by-case basis,” including “armed systems.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Jordan’s King Abdullah visited the U.S. and supposedly asked President Obama to sell unmanned surveillance drones to his country in order to better fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The move could help U.S. allies in the Middle East battle the terror network that has rolled up large swaths of territory.

Aircraft sales would be subject to decades-old rules establishing a “strong presumption of denial,” meaning that foreign governments would have to make a powerful case for purchasing the drones.

The State Department said the U.S. “will exercise restraint” in deciding to sell the aircraft overseas.

Buyers would be required to sign end-use statements certifying that the aircraft would not be used to “conduct unlawful surveillance or use unlawful force against their domestic populations.”

The drones could only be used in internationally sanctioned military operations, such as self-defense.