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UPDATE 2-Saudi ship, blocked from loading arms cargo in France, set to leave Spanish port

Reuters | Updated: 13-05-2019 17:33 IST | Created: 13-05-2019 16:19 IST
UPDATE 2-Saudi ship, blocked from loading arms cargo in France, set to leave Spanish port
Image Credit: Flickr

A Saudi ship, prevented by rights groups from loading an arms cargo at the French port of Le Havre on Friday, arrived at the Spanish port of Santander early on Monday and was due to leave later in the day, according to the Santander port. It was not clear what the Saudi ship was doing in Santander but the port's website said the vessel, the Bahri-Yanbu, was scheduled to set sail at 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT). It did not say where the vessel was heading.

Spain's Interior Ministry said they had no information regarding the ship. The defence and foreign ministries were not immediately available for comment. Santander port authorities could not immediately be reached. French rights group ACAT argued in a legal challenge on Thursday that the arms consignment contravened a U.N. treaty because the weapons might be used against civilians in Yemen, though the case was thrown out by a French judge.

Spanish migrant rights group Pasajes Seguro can say they planned to protest the vessel's presence near the Santander docks on Monday at 7:30 p.m. (1730 GMT.). A classified report written by France's DRM military intelligence agency and published by investigative website Disclose in April showed French arms were being used against civilians in the civil war in Yemen.

The Saudi vessel set course for Santander shortly after the ruling but without the weapons, it was charged with collecting. It carries a separate consignment of arms loaded in Antwerp. In Yemen, tens of thousands of people have been killed by fighting in a war pitting a Saudi-led military coalition against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The war has spawned what the U.N. calls the world's most dire humanitarian crisis.

France's President Emmanuel Macron defended the arms shipment to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Riyadh had assured him the weapons would not be used against civilians. Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists have in the past backed arms sales to Riyadh, though the issue remains divisive in Spain amid concern over the casualties of the war in Yemen.

Last year, the government announced it would halt the sale of 400 laser guided bombs to Saudi Arabia only to reverse its decision a few days later. In the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, the Socialists voted with the opposition against a parliamentary motion seeking to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.


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