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UN blacklist U-turn bearing fruit for Saudis: 24 US gunships by month-end

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter is parked outside Boeing's facility in Mesa, Arizona. (AINonline)

Saudi Arabia’s remaining on the UN’s violators of children rights blacklist would have jeopardized the delivery of 24 US AH-6i Little Bird attack helicopters to Riyadh.

On Wednesday, American multinational corporation Boeing announced that it would start delivering the choppers, being built at a production plant in Mesa, Arizona, to Riyadh by the end of the month.    

The AH-6is are capable of being armed with Hellfire missiles, rocket launchers, miniguns, and machine guns.   

Boeing was given the $234-million military contract in August 2014 by the US army.

The delivery of the attack copters was thrown into uncertainty last week as the UN released the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) report which said the Saudi coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child casualties in Yemen last year, when it killed 510 children and injured 667 others.    

Yemeni malnourished children stand at a therapeutic feeding center in the capital Sana’a on January 2, 2016. (AFP)

According to the Leahy Law, the US Department of State and Department of Defense are prohibited from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

However, on Monday, the UN removed Saudi Arabia from the blacklist, drawing fire from multiple human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch.

Yemeni children walk on stones in front of buildings that were damaged by Saudi air strikes on March 23, 2016 in the UNESCO-listed old city of the Yemeni capital Sana’a. (AFP)

Following the move, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that a final decision has not been made and that the kingdom had been removed from the list pending an upcoming review. "I don't think it's a reversal of policy," he told reporters. "We will see what the review is and we will adjust the list as needed."

Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi said Ban’s decision to remove Riyadh from the blacklist was “irreversible and unconditional,” adding, “We were wrongly placed on the list. We know that this removal is final.”

Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on March 26, 2015 in a bid to bring Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi — a staunch ally of Riyadh who resigned from the presidency — back to power. More than 9,400 people have been killed and at least 16,000 others injured since the onset of the aggression.

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