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Spain to go ahead with bombs sale to Saudis

Updated September 14, 2018

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MADRID: Spain will go ahead with the controversial delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, engaged in a 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,” Borrell said on Spain’s Onda Cero radio.

The government had 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).

That announcement came after an air strike in August on a crowded market in part of Yemen held by Houthi rebels that killed 40 children. But Defence Minister Margarito Robles mooted a U-turn on the arms deal on Monday.

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

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 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.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018