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U.S. to begin allowing sales of armed drones to friendly foreign countries

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States will begin allowing sales of armed drones to friendly foreign countries, allowing allies to widen their arsenals with a tool increasingly used by the American military.

The State Department announced the new policy on Tuesday, saying it will green-light the sales only on “rare occasions” and if the purchasing governments make a series of commitments on how and when they’ll use the drones.

Among those commitments: Foreign governments can only use the drones when there’s a lawful basis to do so, such as self defense, and cannot use them to conduct illegal surveillance against their own populations.

“The United States has a responsibility to ensure that sales, transfers and subsequent use of all U.S.-origin UAS [unmanned aerial systems] are responsible and consistent with U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, including economic security, as well as with U.S. values and international standards,” the State Department said in a statement.

Countries buying the drones are also required to provide proper training to the drone operators “to reduce the risk of unintended injury or damage.”

The U.S.’s own use of drones in military operations has drawn past criticism, particularly for use in Pakistan.

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