The Senate voted to block US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, as legislators outraged with the kingdom delivered a symbolic rebuke to President Donald Trump.

In this file photo taken on May 21, 2019 US Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham gives a statement after closed-door briefing on Iran in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC.
In this file photo taken on May 21, 2019 US Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham gives a statement after closed-door briefing on Iran in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC. (AFP Archive)

The US Senate on Thursday voted to block billions of dollars in military sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, rejecting President Donald Trump's decision to sidestep Congress' review of such deals by declaring an emergency over Iran.

The vote was 53-45 for the first and second resolutions of disapproval, out of 22 filed to cover 22 different military sales valued at a total $8.1 billion, well below the 67 votes needed to overcome Trump's promised veto.

A third vote, covering the remaining 20 resolutions as a group, ended with a narrower 51-45 margin.

Backers of the resolutions, led by Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Lindsey Graham, said they wanted to send a bipartisan message to Saudi Arabia that Washington is not happy about human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Many also express deep concern with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over steep civilian casualties in Yemen, where the two countries are battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Hours before the vote, Iran shot down a US military drone, escalating fears of wider military conflict. Washington said the incident was an "unprovoked attack" in international air space while Tehran said the drone was over its territory. Trump later said the attack apparently was a mistake by an Iranian "general or somebody."

Graham, normally a close Trump ally, underscored the unusual divide with the White House over Saudi Arabia in an emphatic Senate speech before the voting.

"You cannot have a strategic relationship with the United States and behave in a fashion that shows no respect for human dignity, no respect for international norms," Graham said.

Source: Reuters