RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that it used UK-manufactured cluster bombs against Houthi led rebels in Yemen, increasing pressure on the British government which has repeatedly refused to curb arms sales to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia 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.”
The decision to stop using the cluster bombs follows an internal Saudi investigation conducted in discussion with the UK. Saudi officials said it had only been completed last week.
The admission came in advance of a statement by Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, admitting that UK-supplied cluster bombs had been used by Saudi Arabian-led forces. 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 and US are supporting the Saudis against the Houthi militia, which is aligned with Iran. The Saudi-led air campaign has devastated huge swaths of rebel-controlled areas, with high civilian casualties. Last week the US suspended arms sales planned for Saudi Arabia but the UK, has refused to follow suit.
The UK government has been prevaricating for months on the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, its biggest market for weapons sales. Adding to the embarrassment, the UK is a signatory to an international treaty banning cluster bombs.
The prime minister, Theresa May, refused to answer when pressed by the Scottish National party in the House of Commons about when she first became aware that UK-made cluster bombs were used by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.
The UK government’s line is that there had been no confirmation about the cluster bombs until the Saudis completed their inquiry last week.
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