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Theresa May refuses to follow US in ending bomb sales to Saudi Arabia despite schools, hospitals and wedding parties being hit in Yemen

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The aftermath of a bombing attack on a hospital in Yemen

The aftermath of a bombing attack on a hospital in Yemen

Saudi Arabia is governed by Wahhabism, a strict kind of fundamentalist Salafism. Former CIA director James Woolsey once described Wahhabism as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing"

Saudi Arabia is governed by Wahhabism, a strict kind of fundamentalist Salafism. Former CIA director James Woolsey once described Wahhabism as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing"

The aftermath of a bombing attack on a hospital in Yemen

Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected a call for the UK to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia – following the US’s decision to restrict arms sales to the autocracy.

The US announced it would stop a shipment of precision-guided munitions to the country following evidence of “systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting”.

There are reports of the country’s forces hitting schools, hospitals and wedding parties as it intervenes against Houthi rebels on behalf of Yemen’s beleaguered internationally recognised government.

Despite the Americans’ change of heart the UK has continued to supply similar weapons to Saudi Arabia, fuelling its campaign.

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Prime Minister Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia (left) in Manama, Bahrain, where she is on a three day visit to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. PA

Prime Minister Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia (left) in Manama, Bahrain, where she is on a three day visit to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. PA

PA

Prime Minister Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia (left) in Manama, Bahrain, where she is on a three day visit to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. PA

“Civilians have suffered grievously with the bombing of hospitals, of schools, of markets. The UN believes 60 per cent of civilian casualties are caused by air strikes,” the SNP’s Westminster group leader Angus Robertson asked at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“In the last 24 hours the United States has stopped the supply of precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. When will the UK follow suit?”

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Ms May said the UK’s regime was “very strict”. “As the right honourable gentleman knows we do have a very strict regime of export licences in relation to weapons here in the United Kingdom,” she replied. “We exercise that very carefully and in recent years we have indeed refused export licences in relations to arms including to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.”

Mr Robertson, however, hit back: “The US government has just said, and I quote, that ‘systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting’ drove the US decision to halt a future weapons sale sale involving precision-guided munitions.

“The Saudis have UK-supplied precision guided Paveway IV missiles – they’re made in Scotland. The UK has licenced £3.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the bombing campaign. What will it take for the UK to adopt an ethical foreign policy when it comes to Yemen.”

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Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons high as they chant slogans during a gathering (AP)

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons high as they chant slogans during a gathering (AP)

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons high as they chant slogans during a gathering (AP)

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Ms May said: “As the right honourable gentleman knows the intervention in Yemen is a UN-backed intervention. As I’ve said previously, where there are allegations international humanitarian law then we require those to be properly investigated.

“We do have a relationship with Saudi Arabia – the security of the Gulf is important to us. I would remind the RHG that the intelligence and counter-terrorism links we have with Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives here in the UK.”

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Since Saudia Arabia’s campaign started in March 2015 the UK has licensed around £3bn worth of arms including £2.2bn of so-called ML10 licence – aircraft and drones, £1.1bn ML4 licences, which include bombs and missiles, and £430,000 ML6 licences, which includes armoured vehicles and tanks.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Like the US, the UK has licensed billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi forces. Like their US counterparts, UK arms companies have fuelled and profited from the destruction taking place.

“If even the US is questioning its support for Saudi Arabia, then why is the UK Government pulling out all stops to support them? Why are human rights regarded as less important than arms company profits?"

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Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

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An air strike killed more than 140 people attending a funeral in Sanaa, Yemen

An air strike killed more than 140 people attending a funeral in Sanaa, Yemen

An air strike killed more than 140 people attending a funeral in Sanaa, Yemen

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A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Independent News Service


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