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Saudi denies UN claims over child rights blacklist

Saudi Arabia says no threats were used on UN to remove Arab-led coalition fighting in Yemen from child rights blacklist.

Saudi Arabia has denied threatening a cut-off of humanitarian funding to pressure the United Nations to remove the Arab-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a blacklist of child rights violators.

"We did not use threats or intimidation and we did not talk about funding," Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi told reporters on Thursday.

The UN had blacklisted the coalition after concluding in a report released last Thursday that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.

But on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the coalition would be scratched from the list pending a joint review with the alliance.

"Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general removes the listing of the coalition in the report's annex," Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

READ MORE: UN blacklists Arab coalition for child deaths in Yemen

In his first public remarks after announcing that he removed the coalition from the blacklist, the UN chief said on Thursday he took the decision after Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab and Muslim countries, threatened to cut off funding to UN humanitarian programmes.

"This was one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make," Ban told reporters at UN headquarters. 

"It is unacceptable for member-states to exert undue pressure," he said. 

Ban said he "had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many UN programs."

"I stand by the report," Ban added, warning that the content of the report will not change.

READ MORE: UN removes Arab coalition from child rights blacklist

The UN chief appealed to member-states to defend the reporting mechanisms, such as the children in armed conflict annual blacklist, and also pointed out that the coalition may be put back on the list as a result of an investigation.

The Arab-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 power.

Some 6,000 people, about half of them civilians, have been killed in Yemen since last March, according to the UN.

The Houthis, Yemen government forces and pro-government groups have been on the UN blacklist for at least five years and are considered "persistent perpetrators". Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also reappeared on the list.

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