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Saudi Arabia wants Yemen coalition off UN child rights blacklist

Reuters , Monday 6 Jun 2016
Yemen
A Saudi-led air strike on Yemen (File Photo: Reuters)
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Saudi Arabia asked United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to remove the Riyadh-led military coalition in Yemen from a U.N. report that blacklisted it for killing and maiming children, describing the figures as "wildly exaggerated."

The coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries last year, killing 510 and wounding 667, according to Ban's report last Thursday, which also said the coalition carried out half the attacks on schools and hospitals.

"We are asking that this report be corrected immediately so it does not reflect the accusations that have been made against the coalition and Saudi Arabia in particular," Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters.

"If there are any casualties from the coalition side, they would be far, far lower," he said, adding that "the most up-to-date equipment in precision targeting" is used.

Al-Mouallimi spoke after meeting with Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to discuss the report.

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri said in a statement sent to Reuters late on Sunday that the U.N. had not based enough of its report on information supplied by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

The Houthis, Yemen government forces and pro-government militia have been on the U.N. blacklist for at least five years and are considered "persistent perpetrators." Also appearing again on the list is Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Last year, the United Nations left Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas off the blacklist, after they had been included in an earlier draft, but criticized Israel over its 2014 military deadly offensive.

"The Secretary-General saw in his reason last year to eliminate Israel's name from the report, we fail to see why has he not exercised the same wisdom in this report this year," said Mouallimi, adding that Saudi Arabia had not been consulted prior to the publication of this year's report.

Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Secretary-General "is not going to always make everybody happy."

When asked about the addition of Saudi Arabia and not Israel, Dujarric said: "The report ... speaks for itself. It's out ... the result is the report as it stands."

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