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Saudi Arabia warns of trade consequences over proposed UN Yemen probe

Saudi Arabia has warned of trade and diplomatic consequences over a proposed resolution at the UN's main human rights body concerning war-torn Yemen.

The revelation comes in a Saudi letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The letter says sending international, independent investigators to the war zone could "negatively affect" ties.

Two competing resolutions, one by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and another by Canada and the Netherlands, have been proposed on how to best document the human rights violations in Yemen.

The resolutions are shaping up as the main diplomatic showdown at the Human Rights Council session that ends on Friday.

Saudi Arabia has sent a letter to at least two foreign countries warning Arab states "will not accept" the Dutch-Canadian resolution, which seeks an "international, independent investigation".

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has repeatedly called for such an investigation.

Saudi Arabia favours an existing domestic investigation that critics say has failed to hold rights violators to account in a war pitting the Saudi-backed, internationally recognised government against Shiite and affiliated rebel groups.

The fighting has killed more than 10,000 civilians over the last two and a half years in the Arab world's poorest country.

While both sides say they are working to reach a single, compromise text at the 47-member rights council in Geneva, the letter suggests the kingdom is exerting diplomatic and economic pressure to thwart the rival plan.

"Adopting the Netherlands/Canadian draft resolution in the Human Rights Council may negatively affect the bilateral political and economic relations with Saudi Arabia," the 1-1/2-page letter said, while also emphasising the "importance of adopting a unified stance to face the conflict in Yemen".

Saudi Arabia has succeeded in derailing past attempts by the Dutch at the council to ensure greater accountability for rights violations in Yemen.

The Dutch-Canadian effort seeks to get access for human rights teams to rebel-held parts of Yemen that domestic investigators cannot visit.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has received military hardware and support from the United States, Britain and France, has come under increasing fire from advocacy groups over its blistering air strikes that have killed civilians in an impoverished country now on the brink of famine and facing the world's largest cholera outbreak.

"The world has sat largely silent while Yemeni civilians endure horrors," said John Fisher, Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, citing abuses by both the pro-government side and by forces loyal to Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and their allies: the Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Since March 2015, Mr Fisher said, the Saudi-led coalition has bombed "homes, markets, schools, and hospitals. Opposing Houthi-Saleh forces have shelled cities and laid land mines that will harm civilians for years to come.

"Both sides have carried out arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances."

Human Rights Watch supports the Dutch-Canadian proposal.

AP

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