Saudi Arabia signs deal for 48 Typhoon fighter jets

Mohammed bin Salman visit to UK

Shares in BAE Systems jumped on Friday, spurred by news that Saudi Arabia had signed a provisional agreement with the UK Government to buy 48 Typhoon fighter jets - a much-needed shot in the arm for the defence company.

The red carpet has been rolled out at Buckingham Palace and No. 10 Downing Street in London for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

That has provided a controversial backdrop to the warm diplomatic welcome for Prince Mohammed, with hundreds turning out on Wednesday to protest arms sales and Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen war.

As expected, the news came just after a meeting between the crown prince, who has rapidly consolidated his power and sidelined rivals, and Britain's defense minister, Gavin Williamson.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is the most important combat aircraft in BAE Systems' portfolio, accounting for almost a third of the unit's sales in 2016.

Protesters are planning to target the Saudi officials over Yemen and other human rights issues, and Britain for licensing £4.6 billion of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

BAE Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said it was a positive step toward agreeing a contract with a valued partner.

"We are committed to supporting the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as it modernises the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of Vision 2030", the company said in a short statement.

Friday's blockbuster announcement follows long-running discussions with Saudi Arabia, which already has a total of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon planes in its fleet.

Speaking in London at the launch of The War On Children, a report into crimes against children in warzones, Mr Watkins said: "It has become acceptable to operate humanitarian blockades which, if not explicitly created to starve children and harm children, will have that inevitable effect".

"The fact that you can rape, murder, kidnap, bomb schools, bomb clinics with no outcome, speaks I think to the heart of the deeper challenge that we are addressing today".

Later this month Prince Mohammed, 32 will visit the United States, which also wants lucrative ties with the country.

May intends to use the private dinner at Chequers on Thursday, a 16th-century manor house 60km northwest of London, to bring up concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, her spokesman said.

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