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Spain confirms multi-million dollar bomb sales to Saudi Arabia in dramatic U-turn

Spain's FM Josep Borrell confirmed the weapons sale on Spanish radio [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2018

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Despite clamour from rights groups, Spain's FM confirmed the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia will go ahead to honour a deal struck under the previous administration.
Spain will go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns over the kingdom's leading role in the bloody conflict in Yemen, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

"In the end, the decision is to deliver these bombs to honour a contract dating from 2015, and was made by the previous government," Borrell said on Spain's Onda Cero radio.

Spain has come under fire from rights groups including Amnesty International for being one of the biggest exporters of arms to Saudi Arabia. The war in Yemen, in which the Saudi-led coalition has carried out many devastating attacks, is thought to have killed more than 10,000 people and left 8.4 million on the brink of famine.

The move is a dramatic turnaround from the government who announced a week ago that it would block delivery of the weapons - for which longtime ally Riyadh has already paid 9.2 million euros ($10.7 million).

The announcement came after an airstrike in August on a crowded market in part of northern Yemen held by Houthi rebels that killed 40 schoolchildren.

However Spain's Defence Minister Margarito Robles mooted a U-turn on the arms deal on Monday.

Asked Wednesday about criticism from humanitarian groups over the deadly bombs, Borrell said they had "extraordinary precision of less than a metre (yard)" and did not cause collateral damage.

“This kind of weapon does not produce the same sort of bombing as less sophisticated weapons, launched a bit randomly, that create the sort of tragedy that we have all condemned,” he said.

Cancellation of the deal would jeopardise a much larger order for five Corvette warships worth 1.8 billion euros, to be built by Spain's Navantia shipyard in the southern region of Andalusia, with thousands of jobs at stake.

Workers in the region, a stronghold of the ruling Socialist Party, have staged demonstrations pressing for the deal to go ahead. A socialist government took power in Spain in June.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in 2015 after Houthi rebels ousted the government from the capital Sanaa and seized swathes of the country.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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