U.S. blocks Israeli arms deal with Nigeria

Citing human rights abuses and widespread corruption in nixing helicopter sale, the United States has reportedly vetoed a 2014 arms sale of US-made Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria.

Though the resale of decommissioned gunships was approved by Israel’s Defence Ministry, Washington stopped the deal over concerns that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties in its ongoing fight with Boko Haram, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday.

The canceled sale has further strained Washington’s already tense ties with Nigeria over the government’s response to the five-year-long insurgency by the Islamist group.

Beyond its concern over human rights abuses, the Obama administration has significantly limited its security assistance to Nigeria in recent months, due to widespread government corruption and a possible Boko Haram infiltration into the Nigerian military, The New York Times reported in December.

Though Asia remains Israel’s biggest arms customer, military exports to African nations virtually doubled in 2013.  A total of $224 million worth of arms and military technology was sold to African countries, compared to $107 million in 2012.

According to defence sources, a second African country could be a potential buyer for the helicopters, though the Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report.

During a visit to Nigeria on Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was prepared to increase its support for the fight against Boko Haram, provided next month’s elections take place peacefully and democratically.

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