Saudi Arabia finally admits to using British-made cluster bombs in Yemen
London, Dec 21: Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that it used UK-manufactured cluster bombs against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The admission came in advance of British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s statement that British-made cluster bombs have been used by Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen, reports The Guardian.
Saudi Arabia also said it would cease to use UK-manufactured cluster bombs and that it had informed the UK government of this decision.
Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said: “It has become apparent that there was limited use by the coalition of the UK-manufactured BL755 cluster munition in Yemen.”
Fallon told the House of Commons that a “limited number” of BL755 cluster munitions exported from the UK in the 1980s had been dropped by the Arab coalition.
He said he welcomed Saudi Arabia’s confirmation it would not use further BL755 cluster munitions and that Britain’s sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries would be kept under review.
The UK government has been prevaricating for months on the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, its biggest market for weapons sales.
London, however, said that it had no confirmation about the cluster bombs until the Saudis completed their inquiry last week.
Asiri, in a press release published in Al Arabiya newspaper, defended the use of the bombs saying “This munition was used against legitimate military targets to defend Saudi towns and villages against continuous attacks by Houthi militia, which resulted in Saudi civilian casualties.”
The cluster bombs, the use of which was first raised by Amnesty International, had been used between December 2015 and January 2016 near al-Khadra in Yemen.
The UK had stopped manufacturing cluster bombs in 1989 and signed up to a convention in 2008 not to use them. However, neither Saudi Arabia nor the US has signed the convention, and since the UK is an ally of both, and convention says signatories should not aid or abet countries using them, the legal position is still unclear.