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Foreign Policy: White House Blocks Transfer of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

2016-05-29 - 9:31 p

Bahrain Mirror: Frustrated by a growing death toll, the White House has quietly placed a hold on the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as the Gulf ally continues its bloody war on Shiite rebels in Yemen, U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy.

It's the first concrete step the United States has taken to demonstrate its unease with the Saudi bombing campaign that human rights activists say has killed and injured hundreds of Yemeni civilians, many of them children.

The move follows rising criticism by U.S. lawmakers of America's support for the oil-rich monarchy in the year-long conflict. Washington has sold weapons and provided training, targeting information, and aerial refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. It has also sold Riyadh millions of dollars' worth of cluster bombs in recent years.
Asked about the hold on the shipments, a senior U.S. official cited reports that the Saudi-led coalition used cluster bombs "in areas in which civilians are alleged to have been present or in the vicinity."

"We take such concerns seriously and are seeking additional information," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The hold applies to CBU-105 cluster bombs manufactured by the U.S.-based firm Textron Systems. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Saudi-led forces have dropped CBU-105 munitions in multiple locations around Yemen, including Al-Amar, Sanhan, Amran, and the Al-Hayma port.

Cluster bombs contain bomblets that scatter widely and kill or injure indiscriminately. Sometimes bomblets fail to detonate immediately and can kill civilians months or even years later. The weapons were banned in a 2008 international treaty that arms sales giants, including the United States and Russia, refused to sign.

While praising the decision to hold the sale of cluster bombs to Riyadh, prominent humanitarian groups told FP it's not enough.

"Any step toward ending the production and sale of cluster bomb munitions by the United States government is a good thing, but much much more needs to be done," said Sunjeev Bery, advocacy director at Amnesty International. He said his organization pushed - unsuccessfully - to block a $1.3 billion sale of smart bombs to Riyadh that the United States approved in November.

Arabic Version 


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